Councils look at finding more burial space

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PRESSURE is mounting to find more land for graves as council chiefs in pockets of the county admit a dire shortage of burial space.

Authorities in Gravesham, Swale and Shepway admitted some cemeteries had little space left and measures were being taken to try and either extend existing land or find new suitable sites.

But due to the strict rules surrounding such development, the task is proving difficult.

A spokesman for Gravesham Borough Council said it was “extremely difficult” to build a new cemetery.

“It takes many years, therefore at Northfleet and Gravesend we’ve been running out of burial space for a while,” he said.

“About a year ago there was a plan to have a new cemetery but these were scuppered by environmental constraints. You can’t bury people on top of watercourses; it’s not a straightforward development.”

The spokesman said there was nine years’ worth of burial space left in the two cemeteries.

“The council has reconfigured pathways through the cemeteries to extend its capacity,” he said.

“Without these measures Gravesend cemetery would already be full. There is probably around two years’ capacity left in Gravesend with the current measures in place.

“The council continues to review the situation. We’re looking for a more permanent solution – it’s one of our primary aims.”

Shepway council said there was “very little” grave space left on Romney Marsh.

“We do have Hawkinge cemetery which has many grave spaces,” he added.

But if a deceased person from Romney Marsh is buried in Hawkinge it could mean a 40-50 mile round trip for the bereaved family to visit their loved one’s grave.

In Swale, investigations into finding alternative grave sites on the Isle of Sheppey are underway as burial space continues to dwindle.

A spokesman for the council said it had been known for some time that land at Halfway cemetery would eventually run out.

He said due to a lack of space at the cemetery options were being considered.

“Investigations into using other sites as burial grounds are ongoing,” he said.

“The preferred option for providing extra space would be to extend into the farmland adjacent to the existing cemetery at Halfway.

“However, it has not been possible to reach agreement with the current owner.

“Investigations into using other sites as burial grounds are ongoing. Discussions with the Environment Agency are an important factor because of the high water table on the Isle of Sheppey, which precludes many areas from further consideration.

“It should be noted that other considerations will still need to be taken into account such as availability of land, proximity of public transport, vehicular access, capital costs for land purchase and landscaping and the views of local residents when searching for a site.”

He said they had not yet made any final decisions.

“The council understands the desire from local residents for a suitable cemetery to be provided on Sheppey and is keen to work with the local community to find a suitable solution,” he said.

In Thanet, the council calculated when it would run out of space at its two cemeteries in Margate and Ramsgate and, as a result, proposals have been agreed to allow for further extensions in the space currently available.

Other councils, including Maidstone, Medway, Tunbridge Wells and Canterbury said they had no current problems with capacity and it was of no immediate concern based on death rates.

Two years ago, council chiefs in Dover were forced to find new land for graves, but a spokesman said there was now no issue with burial space.

Town hall chiefs in Ashford said the authority was currently reviewing cemetery provision to establish what was needed from 2018 onwards.

In Dartford, burial space has been included in the council’s core strategy to ensure new sites are located and agreed before the need becomes critical.

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