Cemetery managers and campaigners have claimed that the move would allow some existing burials to be deepened and up to two new interments to be added.
“It’s an issue everywhere to be quite honest. Until they change the law on the reuse of graves then nothing will change,” said Sue MacDonald, cemeteries registrar at St Edmundsbury Borough Council.
“They do it in some London boroughs where they have particular problems with burial space. Unfortunately, it has not spread to the rest of the country.”
To avoid what has been termed by its CEO Tim Morris as a “looming crisis”, the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium management is calling for the Government to take up burial legislation that was shelved before the last general election.
“In between five and 10 years, 25 per cent of UK will have new burial facility. It is quite alarming really,” said Morris.
“Reuse is common in lots of countries and it was common practice in the UK until the 1850s. It seems reuse could be a straightforward answer to a lot of problems.
“Fewer than 30 per cent of people still want to be buried and where it is people’s religious or personal belief, that’s going to continue. We are looking at a crisis, there’s a real crisis looming.”
Sue MacDonald said she did not think that the measures taken to reuse graves, such as the deeper burial of current interments to make way for new ones, would create public uneasiness.
“If I could have a pound for every time I meet people in the cemetery who say ‘Look at all this old space, all these old graves, why don’t we reuse them?’ People are quite accepting of that, they don’t think it is a weird idea,” she commented.
Since 2004, the Bury St Edmunds Cemetery in Suffolk has been closed to full burials, with recent interments only taking place on pre-purchased plots or family graves.
Despite Ipswich Borough Council saying there is space in their cemeteries for the next 15 years, Suffolk Coastal District Council remarked that the “need for land is a constant issue” for local authorities and town councils in the area.
A spokeswoman from the Ministry of Justice said: “There are currently no plans to change the policy on reuse of graves. However, we keep this under constant review.”
Image: Jeane Trend-Hill