Crisis over UK cemeteries

23 February 2011
The nation's burial grounds are full to overflowing, while the UK death rate is set to rise over the next 20 years.

Space for graves in many urban areas is fast running out, but around 30% of people choose to be buried.

In London, the situation has been at critical point for some time, with cemeteries in Hackney and Tower Hamlets full to capacity. 

Meanwhile residents in Honor Oak Park, South London, hit the headlines this week when they joined forces to protest against council plans to turn a park into a burial ground. 

Honor Oak Park Recreation Ground was bought by Southwark Council as a burial ground in 1901, but has since been used as a park. The council says its cemeteries are nearly full and using the land is one option, adding that the park had not been used for cemetery purposes since 1901 because "burial space had not been exhausted elsewhere".

A statement said: "Our cemeteries are nearly full. We will continue to create burial space where we can, through the use of any remaining virgin ground (not much) and are looking at the re-use of common graves, but this won't solve the long-term problem."

In County Durham the situation is the same, with councillors in Barnard Castle warning there will soon be nowhere to bury the dead. It is estimated that the town’s cemetery only has space for another 150 burials, but an alternative site has yet to be found. Because of the long time it takes to create a new cemetery, it is feared that the current site could be full before a new one is ready.

Cllr John Watson said: “We are working against the clock. We could have the situation where people find burials can’t take place in the town because a new cemetery is not ready.”

In North Hertfordshire, the District Council has approved plans to stop full body burials at three of its four cemeteries. From 1 April 2011, due to the limited space available, only the burial of ashes will be permitted at Hitchin, Baldock and Royston cemeteries.

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