Northern Ireland

Woodland burial: Planning sought for NI's first site

Site of a proposed woodland burial site
Image caption Only cardboard or wicker coffins would be permitted in the proposed woodland burial site

Northern Ireland could soon have it first woodland burial site.

Planning permission is being sought for the facility near Downpatrick, County Down.

There would be no headstones and ordinary coffins would not be allowed, instead thousands of trees and wildflowers will be planted to create a memorial nature reserve.

People wishing to be buried there would use cardboard or wicker coffins and no embalming fluid would be permitted.

GPS technology will be used to ensure that people who want to be buried with family members can identify grave locations.

Image caption Artist Catherine McWilliams says she likes the idea of her remains returning to the earth

It is estimated 750 burials could be accommodated in the first phase with more later.

A group of people have come together to develop the proposal. They are called Down to Earth and include well-known artist Catherine McWilliams.

Having drawn on the landscape for inspiration in her work for years, she said: "I would like the idea of my mortal remains going back to preserve the earth and to feed the plants and flowers that grow out of it."

A buffer zone of trees will be planted to provide a natural filtration unit and protect a lough close to the site.

Image caption It is envisaged that trees would be used to filter water seeping from the site to protect Lough Money which lies below the proposed burial site

There is already a similar facility in County Wexford and hundreds of them in Britain.

If passed by planners the site, near Lough Money close to the village of Ballyalton, could be operation within the year.