Future of North Herts cemeteries to undergo consideration

MEASURES including changes to prices and a restriction on body burials will undergo consideration this month, following reports which showed that there are limited spaces available in North Herts cemeteries.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) is to consider a number of proposals to combat the problem. If things continue as they are, it will take Hitchin and Baldock six and 10 years respectively to reach full capacity.

There are several proposals due to be considered by NHDC’s Cabinet, including the controversial proposal to introduce a 50 per cent charge for the burial of under 18’s, a service which is currently free.

This has been opposed by area committees, whose feedback will be used to help the Cabinet’s decision on January 25.

“I was absolutely appalled at the proposals on the charges for under 18 burials,” said Cllr Judi Billing, chairman of the Hitchin Committee that disagreed with the suggestion.

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“For any under 18 death, there is a devastated family coping with the worst imaginable tragedy.

“These are the families who most need their children to buried close by where they live and not many miles away, and anything that makes that more difficult has to be the wrong approach.”

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Other potential ideas which will be explored include restricting Hitchin and Baldock cemeteries for internment of ashes only, and using nearby land to create more plots.

All proposals follow a decision made in September by NHDC’s Cabinet, which agreed to adopt Wilbury Hills Cemetery in Letchworth as the main cemetery for North Herts.

It is expected that the charging of double fees for residents outside of North Herts will remain.

“We understand some residents may be concerned about being buried in a different location to relatives already buried at the local cemeteries,” said Cllr Peter Burt, NHDC portfolio holder for environment.

“In order to increase the longevity of these local cemeteries it is proposed that we restrict their use to the internment of ashes only.

“Consideration is also being given to changes to pricing and these will be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting.

“I would like to add that officers will continue to work with individual families as and when required so as to meet their wishes in the best way possible within the context of the diminishing finances available.

“This is not a decision that the council has taken lightly. A great deal of thought has gone into how we can best manage this situation while maintaining a reliable service for our residents.”

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