Do countryside landowners hold the solution to a grave crisis?
Around 623,000 people died in the UK in the year to mid 2018, the highest annual UK mortality since 2000. An estimated one quarter of those had opted for burial. Experts have regularly been warning that as the population grows, and as demand for land for housing increases, then ‘traditional’ space for burials will be squeezed.
This was highlighted in a survey of local authorities in England and Wales, published in 2013 which estimated that half of them would run out of burial space in 20 years, one quarter would be full by 2023, and some anticipated no remaining space for burials within just five years, which by now has presumably happened.
A number of solutions have been proposed. In London, for example, the law permits reusing graves involving disinterring remains, deepening the grave, re-burying the remains and then placing another body above. In one London cemetery the ground height has been raised by 8ft to allow a second ‘storey’ of burials to be made possible. Other proposals have included using land at the sides of motorways and railway lines, and brownfield sites.
The solution, in part, may lie in the countryside, where estates and farms, looking for alternative development opportunities or different revenue streams to farming, renewables, tourism and other land-based activities, can provide sympathetic and attractive sites and options for housing the dead, or their remains. These have included woodland, memorial walls and gardens and even modern burial mounds, or barrows.
Creative solutions for where we can respectfully lay our loved ones to rest and in an environmentally friendly manner are developing across the countryside.
There are dedicated developers and operators who can take these solutions forward in ways that not only provide a service but also capture the public’s imagination.
What has hit the headlines as a grave crisis is providing a serious business opportunity for farms and estates.
It is another area where we need to find the resource to provide a solution to what is a problem that is not going to go away.