A big “thank you” to those who completed SLCC’s recent snapshot electronic survey which has confirmed what was thought to be the case that the shortage of new graves in England and Wales is no longer a big city issue but has spread to many market town and parishes throughout England and Wales.
Over 400 responses were received from members in 45 counties showing, rather alarmingly, that half of their local council run Cemeteries will be full in 10 years and 17% in under five years. Non-residential burials in new graves are not permitted in 30% of cemeteries whilst the remainder were imposing much higher fees. In a quarter exclusive rights of burial could no longer be purchased meaning that long term family only occupancy of a grave could not be guaranteed.
Space in Churchyards is also shrinking with half the Church of England graveyards surveyed having been formally closed by Order in (Privy) Council whilst fewer were being extended as parochial church councils looked to local authorities to take over their once traditional role.
When it came to provision made by local planning authorities as part of future infrastructure requirements within the National Planning Policy Framework only 8% were reported as having carried out any kind of burial capacity survey. With the number of authorities refusing to bury other than parishioners and non-resident fees both increasing funeral poverty is likely to affect still more poor families and those the Prime Minister describes as JAMS. Unlike in Scotland where the recent Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 now requires all unitary authorities to provide a burial ground in their area such provision remains a discretionary service for those living in England and Wales.
SLCC’s survey adds to the growing weight of evidence gathered by other professional bodies in the sector and calls for the Ministry of Justice to extend grave re-use beyond London to all burials authorities. Both the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Welsh Assembly Government also need to ensure greater emphasis is given by local planning authorities to increasing burial capacity in line with new residential development and population growth in towns and parishes to avoid what could easily become another national post code lottery - this time for bereaved families.
Click here to view the full results.