Burial space in England 'could run out in 20 years'

 

The BBC's John Maguire visits a cemetery which is expanding for a second time

Related Stories

Almost half of England's cemeteries could run out of space within the next 20 years, a BBC survey suggests.

And a quarter of 358 local authorities responding to the BBC said they would have no more room for burials within a decade.

Cemetery experts warned of a looming "crisis", while managers called for a change in law to allow graves that are more than 75-years-old to be reused.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the issue was "under constant review".

BBC Local Radio approached 699 local authorities - 358 of which responded.

Start Quote

Any changes in the way in which graves and cemeteries might be managed need to be considered carefully and sensitively”

End Quote Ministry of Justice spokesman

Many of the councils surveyed, including those in Gosport, Mole Valley, Crawley and Rother, said they had five years or less before they ran out of room.

Other areas - such as Tandridge district council in the South East - said they had already run out of space.

Some 44% said they had 20 years or less before burial space ran out.

About 74% of people who died in 2012 in the UK were cremated, but the cremation rates have levelled off - and there is still a demand for full burial and burial of ashes.

'Critical situation'

Although local authorities in larger areas such as Sheffield and Oxford expressed concern about dwindling cemetery space, some of the worst-hit areas were small rural councils.

Among them was the town of Bicester in Oxfordshire, which is due to double in size over the next 10 years with the development of 12,000 houses.

Bicester's cemetery manager Chris Johnson said: "The situation is critical now. We're getting to two years of burials remaining so we are desperate to find other means - other land for a new cemetery ground".

Case study: Winston Hagston

Winston Hagston

Winston Hagston, 49, owns Hagston's Butchers in the small Yorkshire town of Market Weighton. The site has played host to the town butchers for more than 100 years.

Generations of Mr Hagston's family are buried in the local cemetery, but it now has only a handful of burial plots left, all of which are reserved.

Mr Hagston says he finds it frustrating that he will have to be buried in Hull, more than 20 miles away from his home town.

"It's nice to see my ancestors laid to rest in a place that they brought all their children up in," he says.

"The Hagston name is quite a familiar name around Market Weighton, and that's one of the reasons I want to be buried here - next to my ancestors."

He said officials faced having to encroach on a nearby sports field to make room.

Elsewhere in the area, cemeteries have had to dig up their car parks and paths to cope with demand.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said pressure on cemetery space meant people faced having to buy plots away from their home towns and families.

Bereaved relatives in Tandridge in Surrey have had problems with burial space for a long time.

Peter Wyre, from Caterham, lost his wife Susan nearly three years ago and was initially told he would not be able to bury her in the local graveyard.

Speaking to the BBC, he said he had been devastated by the news: "I was gutted, absolutely distraught. I mean if I wasn't upset already I was completely on the floor at that point. Just pure desperation because I knew that that's what she wanted."

However, he was able to bury his wife locally in the end: "They clearly understood that I was upset. And right on the 11th hour of Christmas Eve I had a call from the undertakers to say, 'look, we've called in a favour and spoken to various individuals and we have a place.'"

No decisions

Dr Julie Rugg, of the University of York's cemetery research unit, said the situation was "desperate" and called on the government to intervene.

Download the data

She said the findings of the survey suggested "for the first time how desperate the problem is right across the country".

"It's not just a London or a big town problem. Even small parish councils are wondering how they are going to cope when land runs out," she said.

"I don't know how much more evidence there needs to be on the table before the Ministry of Justice appreciates that this is a crisis."

Survey findings

  • 699 local authorities approached
  • 358 responded
  • 44% said they had 20 years or less burial space remaining
  • 25% said they could run out of burial space in a decade

The MoJ is responsible for burial law. Local authorities are not legally bound to carry out burials but they are required to dispose of the dead.

In response to the findings, a spokesman for the MoJ said: "Any changes in the way in which graves and cemeteries might be managed need to be considered carefully and sensitively.

"We keep this area under constant review and no decisions have yet been taken."

Grave re-use

However, some have called for a change in grave use policy.

Tim Morris, from the Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management, said: "Money needed to build new cemeteries could be saved, and spent on the living, through the re-use of graves," he said.

He said such a move would involve lifting out remains from graves that are more than 75-years-old, burying them deeper in the same grave and then re-using the space on top.

A 2007 law permits this in London cemeteries but does not yet apply to the rest of England.

The City of London Cemetery, which is run by the City of London Corporation, is the only cemetery preparing to "lift and deepen".

Gary Burks, superintendent of the cemetery, said: "I believe that is achievable and acceptable. And I feel that it's appropriate for the world we live in.

How many years before space runs out?

Local Authority Region Years left

North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council

North East

500

Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council

North West

400

West Lindsey District Council

East

200

Bassetlaw District Council

East

150

Broxtowe Borough Council

East

135

Spelthorne Borough Council

South and South East

130

Elmbridge Borough Council

South and South East

125

East Riding of Yorkshire Council

North

112

Hartlepool Borough Council

North East

100

Bedford Council

East Anglia

100

Medway council

South and South East

100

Tonbridge and Malling District Council

South and South East

100

Chichester District Council

South and South East

100

Bath and North East Somerset Council

South West

100

Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council

North East

93

Richmondshire District Council

North

90

Liverpool City Council

North West

75-100

Derbyshire Dales District Council

East

75

Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

North West

72

Hull City Council

North

70-80

Nottingham City Council

East

70

Weymouth and Portland Borough council

South West

70

Forest of Dean District Council

South West

64

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council

North West

60

South Staffordshire Council

Midlands

60

Stafford Borough Council

Midlands

60

Plymouth City Council

South West

60

Sedgemoor District Council

South West

55

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

North

53

Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Midlands

50-75

South Tyneside Council

North East

50-100

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

North

50-100

Leeds City Council

North

50

Barrow in Furness Borough Council

North West

50

Eden District Council

North West

50

Salford City Council

North West

50

Rutland County Council

East

50

Cambridge City Council

East Anglia

50

South Buckinghamshire District Council

South and South East

50

Arun District Council

South and South East

50

Cornwall Council

South West

50

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

London

50

East Hampshire District Council

South and South East

49

Wiltshire Council

South West

46

Hastings Borough Council

South and South East

45-50

Bradford Metropolitan District Council

North

45

East Staffordshire Borough Council

Midlands

40-60

Carlisle City Council

North West

40

High Peak Borough Council

East

40

Newark and Sherwood District Council

East

40

St Albans City and District Council

East Anglia

40

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Midlands

40

Mid Devon District Council

South West

40

South Gloucestershire Council

South West

40

Cheltenham Borough Council

South West

40

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

London

40

London Borough of Redbridge

London

35-40

Horsham District Council

South and South East

35

Manchester City Council

North West

35

Royal Borough of Greenwich

London

31

Teignbridge District Council

South West

30-50

Pendle Borough Council

North West

30-40

Warwick District Council

Midlands

30-100

Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council

North East

30

Craven District Council

North

30

Kettering Borough Council

East

30

Ipswich Borough Council

East Anglia

30

Staffordshire County Council

Midlands

30

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council

Midlands

30

Stratford-on-Avon District Council

Midlands

30

Aylesbury Vale District Council

South and South East

30

Runnymede Borough Council

South and South East

30

Fylde Borough Council

North West

25-40

Hertfordshire County Council

East Anglia

25-30

Norwich City Council

East Anglia

25-30

Herefordshire Council

Midlands

25-30

Wycombe District Council

South and South East

25-30

Southampton City Council

South and South East

25-30

Gloucester city council

South West

25

St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council

North West

25

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

North West

25

Wirral Council

North West

25

North West Leicestershire District Council

East

25

Portsmouth City Council

South and South East

25

Dover District Council

South and South East

25

Bristol City Council

South West

24

Blackpool Borough Council

North West

20

Cheshire West and Chester Council

North West

20

Chesterfield Borough Council

East

20

Charnwood Borough Council

East

20

Wellingborough Borough Council

East

20

Tendring District Council

East Anglia

20

Borough of Broxbourne

East Anglia

20

Stevenage Borough Council

East Anglia

20

Slough Borough Council

South and South East

20

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

South and South East

20

Fareham Borough Council

South and South East

20

Canterbury City Council

South and South East

20

Dartford Borough Council

South and South East

20

London borough of Ealing

London

20

Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames

London

20

London Borough of Bexley

London

18-22

Wyre Council

North West

18

Sunderland City Council

North East

17

Oadby and Wigston District Council

East

17

London Borough of Lewisham

London

15-40

Wolverhampton City Council

Midlands

15-20

Warrington Borough Council

North West

15-20

Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

North

15-20

Melton Borough Council

East

15-20

Chelmsford City Council

East Anglia

15-20 or 90

Bracknell Forest Council

South and South East

15-20

Maidstone Borough Council

South and South East

15-20

Bournemouth Borough Council

South West

15-20

Northamptonshire County Council

East

15

Northampton Borough Council

East

15

Reading Borough Council

South and South East

15

Guildford Borough Council

South and South East

15

London Borough of Bromley

London

15

Oxford City Council

South and South East

13

Boston Borough Council

East

12-15

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council

South and South East

12-14

Isles of Scilly

South West

10-15

Stroud District Council

South West

10-15

Preston City Council

North West

10-15

Derby City Council

East

10-15

Burnley Borough Council

North West

10

Corby Borough Council

East

10

Hertsmere Borough Council

East Anglia

10

City of London

London

10

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

East Anglia

9-10

Peterborough City Council

East Anglia

9

Wokingham Borough Council

South and South East

9

Ashfield District Council

East

8-10

London Borough of Islington

London

8-10

Cotswold District Council

South West

7-8

North Devon Council

South West

7-10

Torridge District Council

South West

7 in some sites

Tewkesbury District council

South West

7

Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council

Midlands

7

London Borough of Barnet

London

6-10

Ashford Borough Council

South and South East

6

Christchurch Borough Council

South West

5-8

Redcar and Cleveland Council

North East

5-10

Sheffield City Council

North

5-10

Rushcliffe Borough Council

East

5-10

Three Rivers District Council

East Anglia

5-10

Eastbourne Borough Council

South and South East

5-10

Dacorum Council

East Anglia

5

South Holland District Council

East

4-5

St Edmundsbury Borough Council

East Anglia

4-5

Gosport Borough Council

South and South East

3-5

Mole Valley District Council

South and South East

3-5

Crawley Borough Council

South and South East

3-4

Rother District Council

South and South East

2-4 in one 90 in the other

Colchester Borough Council

East Anglia

2 for C of E 10-15 for rest

Kirklees Council

North

2

Borough of Poole Council

South West

2

London Borough of Croydon

London

1.5

Cannock Chase District Council

Midlands

1.5

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council

North West

1

London Borough of Havering

London

1

Tandridge District Council

South and South East

0

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 551.

    If cremation is the right technical answer, I don't see why an exception should be made for people whose religion "requires" them to be buried. That's not fair on everyone else.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 550.

    Wasn't there a man near Devizes who was going to build a long barrow for the dead to be laid in?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 549.

    If we weren't so busy making people there would be more parking spaces, less need to destroy the planet & therefore ourselves, more fresh air, less climate anomalies, more food, no one going hungry, shelter for all, cheaper energy costs, more housing, better health, better schooling, more burial spaces, less traffic congestion, more jobs, less stress, no water shortages, more species, etc.. etc..

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 548.

    Meh. Burn me, turn me to soylent green or send me to resyk for all I care. Won't make any actual difference to me or the people I leave behind will it? Only the religious are obsessed with corpses, let them buy their own land.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 547.

    530.30CD "donate my body to science"
    My only concern would be that I'd want some control over what happened to it. A while back Jamie Oliver used the cadaver of a fat guy who had donated it to 'science' for a televised autopsy about 'obesity'. Apparently neither he nor his family would have consented to this but had no redress. If for genuine research rather than a reality freakshow then fine.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 546.

    Open more cemetries! That's how the 'invisible hand' of the market that the right wingers who run our country believe in works. There's a shortage, the 'invisible hand' fills it. Think how we used to have a housing shortage, and how the market filled the gap...

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 545.

    @544
    Tolerance.
    This word causes more problems than it's worth.

    Tolerance should be banned forthwith

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 544.

    So, those advocating cremation for all, how do you deal with religous people, not just Christians but of all faiths and whose beliefs require they are buried when dead? Walk all over their beliefs regardless? Not very tolerant, is it! Clearance after 100 years should suffice to make room for more bodies.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 543.

    My wife passed away in February at the age of 26. Since she was American we had her cremated and half her ashes are now interred in a RC mausoleum near her Mom's house. The rest are in an urn in our bedroom, where she always felt safest. There are no cemeteries near our home. Those with space are depressing, muddy, full of rubbish, constantly vandalised and miles from bus routes. No thanks.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 542.

    I do not agree with the idea of using a grave that is already in use just because it is 75 years old. The way forward is to build community Mausoleums. These would take up much less space, be easier to maintain and could be built virtually anywhere.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 541.

    In 19th Century London, burial grounds were filled to capacity, cholera corpses stacked on top of each other. The disease leaking into drains and water supply, infecting others.

    Green Park is in fact a stacked burial pit for corpses from the Black Death. If you dig down you will find layers of bones to considerable depth. Something to think about while sitting on a park bench eating your lunch

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 540.

    We have an efficient way of disposing of bodies so they cause problems from decomposing and that is cremation.

    Life happens then you die, it really is that simple

    Any other mumbo jumbo associated with death is just window dressing to an event which happens to everyone yet surprises so many.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 539.

    At the top of my road is a Victorian cemetery. It is neglected but incredibly atmospheric, the graves fascinatingly decorated compared to today's bits of cheap fake marble. I would not want these relics of a more dignified age torn up, trees felled, solar lights and other Poundland tat scattered everywhere, when a far simpler solution would be to grant planning permission for new burial grounds.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 538.

    In Greece, where there is lack of space, once the flesh has gone (typically 3-5 years), the bones are exhumed and placed in a small box in a storage room at the cemetery. The grave is then re-used. Makes a lot of sense to me.
    Can't see why anyone should expect an eternal grave. Everything is transient.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 537.

    frankiecrisp 521 - have you any children? Have you lost any of them? If you had, you wouldn't have made such an insensitive remark. I've lost two nieces in infancy and it is of great comfort to their respective parents (who have suffered just about the most awful of losses) to visit their graves. Stating the obvious is one thing, exercising tact is another - and obviously beyond you.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 536.

    @530
    Yeah yeah lets slag the cops off, typical liberal lefty attitude. Who are you going to turn to if your mother is murdered, some 'anti-fascist' tolerant cultural marxist?

    As for your organs, who cares?
    If you're dead you don't need 'em

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 535.

    During WW2 blitz and 19th Century cholera epidemics, there were so many dead that common pits were dug at Southwark for mass stacking of the dead all piled in together. A memorial plaque still marks the site at Southwark.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 534.

    I was hoping to have a 'concrete overcoat' burial.

    As a civil engineer desiging concrete structures for 30 years I would fancy being incorporated into a support column of the Gravelly Hill Interchange, Birmingam aka spaghetti junction.

    My epitaph would read 'Bill Stickers Will Be Proscecuted'. Just who was Bill Stickers?

  • Comment number 533.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 532.

    Cremation should be made the norm. With an ever increasing population the demand for burial plots would be ever increasing, taking up more and more land for cemeteries which is a waste of usage with many of the graves not being maintained, as can be seen in any cemetery.

 

Page 7 of 34

 

More UK stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.