Cemeteries close to full

CEMETERIES are becoming so full that they could be closed within the next decade, according to council bosses who are set to carry out a review to find ways to make the most of what little burial space remains.

It had been predicted, at the current rate of burials, that the two cemeteries within Norwich’s boundaries –Earlham and Rosary cemeteries –would be full within just three years.

But Norwich City Council bosses who have spent more than a year trying to figure out a solution to the problem, now hope to extend the use of the cemeteries by maximising the space which remains.

The council plans to bring in external experts to review the space which is left and to come up with suggestions which will mean people can still be buried within the city’s boundaries in the immediate future.

What that will involve is not yet clear, but councillors say “delicate decisions” will need to be taken. The ball will be set rolling when the council’s executive meets tomorrow to discuss what to do next.

However, in the long term, the council admits the cemeteries will have to close and it is likely people will have to buried outside of the city boundaries.

Alan Waters, executive member for corporate resources and governance, said: “What we are going to do is take advice from a professional organisation to look at the best way to maximise the grave space we have left so we can keep the cemeteries open for as long as possible. There’s also a potential development on land to the north of Norwich which could be brought into the frame to plan for the future and the most important thing is the intention to carry out a survey to see what the space is in the city.

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“On the original estimates the cemeteries would have been closed by now, but now we are looking at well into the next decade before that happens. By carrying out this thorough review we can make the best possible use of them before that happens.”

The city council had hoped the issue would be solved by the award of unitary status, which would have opened up new sites for burial.

But a judge stopped that process in its tracks and the council has been speaking to Dignity Funerals Ltd and Colney Woodland Burial Park, along with Broadland and South Norfolk councils to consider if new sites could be provided further out of the city.

A select group of councillors have been working on how to tackle the issue and options considered included outsourcing the provision of burial space to an independent provider, reusing the existing burial space and providing a new council-owned cemetery.

As reported in the summer, the panel had looked at opening a new council-owned cemetery at Lakenham Common or at Harford landfill site, but decided not to take that idea further because of emissions of landfill gas. As well as the landfill site, they considered part of Mousehold Heath, and land jointly owned by the county and city councils under the flight path at Norwich Airport, but did not take the proposals further because of development costs.