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Private Burial Information
When considering a private burial the following information
should be noted:
1. Statutory guidance
a) No authorisation
from central government is required for the burial of a corpse,
either in a cemetery or in private ground. All that is required is
a certificate of disposal issued by the Local Registrar of Births
Deaths and Marriage when the death is registered, or if the death
has been referred to a Coroner, a document issued by him.
b) There is nothing in the existing public general law which
prevents the burial of a body in ground other than a cemetery,
however laws for private burials are very obscure. A book called
"Green Burials" by John Bradfield outlines the complexities of
private burials, which includes some obscure private acts. The
assumption from the book is a private burial and all relevant
details should be in accordance with the Registration of Burials
Act 1864 and therefore at least registered with the property deeds
so there are official records of the burial. If not there could be
problems in the future i.e. the body is mistakenly dug up and foul
play is suspected as no records are found.
c) The Registrar of Births Marriages and Deaths must be notified
of the place of burial. Records passed to them concerning the
location of a private burial site will only be held for 5 - 6
years. Therefore as stated above it is important the burial details
are registered with the property deeds.
d) Whether or not planning consent for the provision of a burial
ground would be required is a matter for the local authority as the
local planning authority; but whether a particular piece of land is
a burial ground is, could be a question of fact and degree.
Case Law, in May 1996 a man in East Sussex won his appeal to the
Department of the Environment against his local authority who had
turned down his application for a Certificate of Lawfulness to have
two burials in his half acre garden. He now has the right to a
'limited number' of burials, containable within an area on his
farm. This would suggest the scope for burial on private land
without planning permission remains as interpreted by the Natural
Death Centre. A 'limited' number of burials (family, friends, those
living in the house) on private land do not require planning
e) It is unlikely whether land where one person was laid to rest
would be held to be burial ground, provided that no substantial
memorial were erected. It might, of course, be otherwise if two or
three were similarly interred.
f) From an environmental health point of view the only statutory
control would be the nuisance provisions of the Environmental
Protection Act 1990. However provided a body is buried in the
correct way (see below for burial procedures) there should be no
problem. If neighbours object on 'health grounds' it might be worth
pointing out that most graveyards are surrounded by residential
properties and no problems are ever reported from these sources,
which typically contain hundreds of bodies.
2. Burial Procedures and general points
The landowners permission is required before a burial can take
b) The burial should not interfere with future building work or
any services ranging from gas pipes to mains sewers. Therefore all
those responsible for providing services i.e. British Gas, Severn
Trent Plc etc should be contacted before choosing the area you have
in mind to confirm the area is clear.
c) Contact should be made with the Environment Agency to check
whether there are any local watercourses in the area chosen. They
are likely to advise the burial ground is kept at least 50 metres
from any watercourses. However if a watercourse is polluted in the
future the Environment Agency could prosecute under the Water
Resources Act 1991. For general enquiries contact on 08707 506 506.
Also check the Council's register of private water supplies to make
sure there is no such supply close to the burial site.
d) There might be restrictions on the method of burial if the
deceased has died of an infectious notifiable disease. Contact your
local Environmental Health Department for further information.
e) It is an offence to bury a body before obtaining a form
giving authority for burial of the body. This is likely to be a
Certificate for Burial (Form 9), which is obtainable from the
Registrar of Births and Deaths or it may be a Coroner's order for
burial if the death is one that has to be reported to the
f) There are no requirements as to whether the body should be
buried in a coffin, shroud etc, and no requirement for a religious
service, or to use a funeral director.
g) There is no minimum depth at which bodies should be buried
although a minimum of 1.0 metres soil cover over the body or coffin
h) It is advisable to inform the police before digging a grave
as it may arouse the suspicion of members of the public.
i) The presence of a grave on land might devalue it. A mortgage
lender may therefore object to home burials and should be consulted
j) Any subsequent owner of the land might prevent family members
from visiting the grave unless there is a specific legal agreement
in the sale details allowing for this. A subsequent owner could
also apply to the Secretary of State for a licence to remove the
body and any tombstone.
k) Although unlikely, there might be a restrictive covenant on
the property prohibiting burials.
l) Such burials are not registerable on the Local Land Charges
Register, but details might be recorded so that an 'information
only' entry could be made in the register - there is no duty to do
m) Although single burials do not appear to require planning
permission, relatives should be advised to check with the Planning
Department anyway, as permission may be required for a
3. Further information
a) The "New Natural
Death Handbook" published by the Natural Death Centre.
For further details go to the Natural Death website or
write to the Natural Death Centre, In the Hill House, Watley,
Twyford, Winchester, SO21 1QX .
b) Advice on private/alternative "green burials" may be obtained
Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales on 01654 702
c) For the law on private burial, see Green Burial by John
Bradfield obtainable from the National Death Centre above.
d) If you wish to discuss any of the above with an Environmental
Health Officer, please contact Customer Services:
This information is based on that currently available to the
Malvern Hills District Council. It is given on the strict
understanding that neither Malvern Hills District Council nor any
of its officers warrant the accuracy of this information or accept
any liability whatsoever for any error or omission therein nor for
any loss or damage arising from interpretation or use of the