Call to re-use plots as cemeteries face grave crisis

Grave plots should be re-used to address a shortfall in spaces, an academic has said.

Churches and other authorities with responsibilities for burial grounds should look at the role they play in society on the continent, according to Julie Rugg, of the University of York’s Cemetery Research Group (CRG).

Research by the BBC’s local radio stations has found that more than four in 10 (44 per cent) cemeteries are expected to be full within 20 years, with a quarter full within the next decade.

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Dr Rugg said there needed to be a rethink about reusing graves.

“We spend a lot of time thinking that’s a problem, something we don’t want – it brings money back into our cemeteries, it brings people back into our cemeteries,” she told BBC Breakfast.

“Cemeteries become vibrant places then, where you can meet people, not these places that are a little bit abandoned, a little bit sad and lonely and neglected.

“When you go on to the continent, cemeteries are often full of people. That is not a bad thing.”

James Porter, from Bicester Town Council in Oxfordshire, said creating new graveyards was an expensive and laborious process because of stringent environmental rules and negotiations with landowners. He told the BBC the town was expected to increase its population from 30,000 to 50,000 in the next 30 years and would need more space.

But while reusing graves would alleviate problems, it comes with its own issues, he told the broadcaster.

“In itself, that is a very difficult job because the graves actually belong to the families of the bereaved for a century,” he said.

“So even after 100 years you have to find the family of the bereaved and get their permission to reuse the graves.”

The cost of dying has risen to an average £7,622 – a 7.1 per cent increase on last year, according to a report earlier this month by insurer Sun Life Direct.

The cost of a funeral has also increased by 5.3 per cent since last year to £3,456, or 80 per cent higher than in 2004.

Burial fees have risen by 69 per cent since 2007 and cremation fees by 51 per cent, according to the report.

The average burial now costs £3,914 and cremation £2,998.

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for legislation regarding burials. A spokesman said: “We keep this area under constant review and no decisions have yet been taken.”