Council set to ban full body burials

A COUNCIL approved plans on Tuesday to prohibit full body burials at three of the four cemeteries in North Herts, allowing just the interment of ashes there only.

In September, it was agreed to adopt the Wilbury Hills cemetery in Letchworth as the main cemetery for North Herts, due to limited space in Hitchin, Baldock and Royston.

The former has six years capacity left, while the latter two are estimated to have 10 years left.

North Herts District Council’s Cabinet agreed to allow only the burial of ashes at Hitchin, Baldock and Royston cemeteries, which will come into effect on April 1.

The decision means that there will be no body burials at these cemeteries, potentially resulting in people unable to be buried near their families.

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NHDC did say that it will meet its previous obligations where there are arrangements already in place at all the district’s cemeteries, including pre-paid and family graves.

It was also agreed by Cabinet that fees will rise to cover the costs of burials so that NHDC will not have to subsidise them in the future.

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This was said to be “essential” due to the current financial climate.

But a controversial proposal to introduce a fee for the burial of those under 18 was rejected.

“We have thought long and hard about these changes because we do understand what a sensitive issue it is,” said Cllr Peter Burt, NHDC portfolio holder for environment.

“We have created a superb new cemetery at Wilbury Hills with enough land to cater for our population for 100 years, overlooking open countryside but also easily accessible to many residents and on a bus route.

“It is unfortunate that our fees will be rising, but the council can no longer afford to subsidise funerals, which is what we have been doing for many years.”

Oliver Heald, MP for North East Herts, said: “I think that people in both Baldock and Royston who want access to full body burial should have it available.

“Most people go for cremation these days but there are a number of people choosing full burials and I think people should have the right to a casket burial if that’s what they want.”

Mr Heald says he has written to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Jonathon Djanogly, and is looking into adapting a system similar to the one used in London, where burial sites can be reused if they fill certain criteria.

Since 2007 authorities have had the power to disturb graves over 75 years old, with the consent of any relatives. This means remains can be buried deeper in the same grave, creating space for more bodies.

It was agreed that organisations wishing to look at areas of land in the district for the future could do so, with NHDC saying its officers would help support investigations.

But it was also said that this would have to be done at no additional cost to the council.

The proposals will now need to be signed off by full council next month.

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