Church in Wales call over lack of burial space

Graveyard (generic)
Image caption The church is raising the issue with Welsh assembly election candidates

Church leaders have warned it will become increasingly difficult for people to be buried in their own communities as space runs out.

The Church in Wales said two-thirds of its 1,000 burial grounds will be full in 10 years and the church was short of funds to maintain graves.

It added that it could not afford to extend or open new churchyards.

The assembly government said it had encouraged dialogue between the church and local government over funding.

There is also concern about burial space within many local authority-run cemeteries.

"We can no longer take it for granted that we will have a last resting place in or near our community," said Alex Glanville, head of property services for the Church in Wales.

"The majority of our churchyards will soon be full and we do not have the resources to extend them or open new ones.

"Maintaining churchyards is also a problem now as we face a significant repair bill.

"We rely on the goodwill of volunteers from local congregations but these are community assets which we need the wider community to support."

The church has issued what it called a "briefing note" to candidates standing in the Welsh assembly election on 5 May.

In the note, the church pointed out its churchyards were maintained by each local congregation "with no formal state aid".

It listed ways assembly members could help such as "urging a government commission that could look at the provision of burial space across Wales to ensure a co-ordinated approach that ensures last resting places in or near communities".

As public bodies trim budgets, the church also called for existing grants and support to be protected.

The Church in Wales said it had identified £16m of work required in churchyards, including paths and walls, with only £3.6m held in reserve to meet these costs.

The assembly government said that maintenance of Church in Wales burial grounds was a matter for the church.

'Significant challenges'

"Local authorities already have powers under section 214 of the Local Government Act 1972 to provide funding to assist the Church of Wales or others who provide burial grounds in Wales," it pointed out.

"The assembly government has encouraged dialogue between the Church in Wales and local government to explore avenues for collaboration in this area."

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said local authorities were the main providers of burial space and, along with the Church in Wales, many were also currently facing "significant challenges in ensuring there is sufficient capacity for burials within their cemeteries".

A WLGA spokesperson said: "In view of some issues over the capacity of burial sites in Wales and the long term planning for burials, the WLGA has agreed to take the lead on establishing a national working group to consider these matters in detail and to assist in finding solutions wherever possible.

"What is clear however, is that local authorities do not have the capacity to take on any additional burden in relation to these issues without the necessary resource to do so."

Funeral director Geoff Hinton, of James Pidgeon and Sons in Cardiff, said there was plenty of space in the city's local authority-run cemeteries but church burials were a different matter.

"There are a few churchyards about but not many - and you've got to live in the parish then," he said.

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