Oxford could run out of graves by 2021, council warns

Wolvercote Cemetery Image copyright Bill Nicholls/Geograph
Image caption Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford has no more vacant grave plots

A city council has warned it could run out of places to bury people by 2021.

Only one of Oxford's four cemeteries has available plots, and the authority has now decided to reclaim unused space in existing grave plots.

On Wednesday the council voted in favour of grave reclamation, where it has a right to re-bury in a grave but not to disturb existing human remains.

Grave diggers are now able to dig up to 6in above any existing remains and use the space as another burial plot.

Labour councillor Louise Upton said: "Some people will be totally comfortable with that, some people will be horrified.

"We can give people the choice."

An Oxford City Council report said it could run out of graves in the city by 2021.

It said even if space could be found for a new cemetery, it would take up to five years to develop.

Grave reclamation could also mean reusing purchased grave sites which have not been used 75 years after they were bought.

The report says Bournemouth Borough Council has used the practice for more than 50 years, and the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Croydon recently began grave reclamation.

Cemetery manager Laura Harlock and open spaces manager Stuart Fitzsimmons wrote: "Without this immediate action, in two years time Oxford could potentially be the first authority to have no place for their residents to be buried."

The proposed doubling up of grave plots could also help tackle funeral poverty, the report added.

Currently a grave plot costs £1,579, but previously excavated graves could be purchased by families at a lower cost.

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