Double burials in UK cemeteries to solve space shortage

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Publisher:  Jon Land
Published: 30/05/2006 - 12:58:55 PM
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Government signals intent on double burials
Government signals intent on
double burials

Old graves are to be opened up to allow more bodies to be buried in the same plot, the Government signalled today.

Harriet Harman, the minister responsible for cemeteries, said she was willing to tackle a "political taboo" by approving double burials.

She told the Evening Standard that the desperate shortage of space in cemeteries could no longer be ignored.

A consultation earlier this year investigated introducing the idea across England and Wales, although Ms Harman said the problem was particularly bad in London.

She told the newspaper: "We have now got to make some decisions that have been put off and put off.

"They have been put off because people do not want to make the decision about whether you do what is described as 'lift and deepen'. This is where you use space - I am phrasing this delicately - in a vertical as well as a horizontal way.

"It's the big political taboo, isn't it, and it has become quite complex with all the different cultural approaches to death."

The idea involves reopening untended graves more than 75 years old and transferring the remains to a smaller container, which would be buried deeper in the same plot.

Another coffin could then be lowered into the original space.

Ms Harman said the Government was consulting local authorities, churches and communities to find a "sensible solution".

London Mayor Ken Livingstone supports the idea, reportedly demanding it as "a matter of urgency".

Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, said the re-using of graves was "desperately needed".

He told the newspaper: "It was recommended by a Commons committee five years ago and the public assume it already happens but no government has had the stomach to actually do it."

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