Norwich running out of cemetery space

Jon WelchCouncillors considered burying Norwich's dead at a landfill site in order to overcome a lack of space at the city's cemeteries, a report reveals.Jon Welch

Councillors considered burying Norwich's dead at a landfill site in order to overcome a lack of space at the city's cemeteries, a report reveals.

A panel looked at opening a new council-owned cemetery at Lakenham Common, the Harford landfill site, but decided not to take the idea further because of emissions of landfill gas.

The annual number of burials has fallen over the past few years as cremation has gained in popularity but, even so, Norwich's two cemeteries, Earlham and Rosary, are nearly full and are expected to reach capacity by 2013.

A 'task and finish' group of councillors was delegated to consider where the city's dead can be buried after that point is reached.

The group looked at four options, including opening a new council-owned cemetery. 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.

Buying land and developing it as a 35-acre cemetery, the same size as Earlham, would cost more than �500,000, the council estimates.

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Other options included re-using existing burial space after 100 years, by exhuming remains in an existing grave, digging the grave to a greater depth, re-interring the remains and using the rest of the grave for fresh burials. However, a change in the law that would have allowed this has been put on hold.

Councillors looked at bringing in an independent company to provide burial space, and this is being kept under review as a potential future option.

The group's recommended option, however, was to work with professional advisers to maximise the existing burial space within the council's cemeteries and with external companies to develop further burial provision.

As well as a full survey showing exactly where burial space remains, this might involve using outlying areas of the cemeteries for burials, as well as the space between graves and possibly mounding earth on top of existing graves to create new ones.

Another possibility likely to be explored is above-ground burial in mausolea, popular on the continent.

Both Dignity Funerals and Colney Wood Burial Park have expressed an interest in working with the council to maximise the remaining space.

The group's findings will go before the council's scrutiny committee on Thursday

Michael Stephenson, public protection manager for Norwich City Council, said: 'There's a national shortage of burial land. All local authorities are burial authorities.

'Although there is no legal requirement for us to do so, the council leader has made it clear that he would wish to provide cemeteries for the community.'

How do you think the problem of a lack of burial space in Norwich can be solved? Write to Letters, Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email