Shropshire Star

Telford & Wrekin Council burial strategy to take grave size changes into account

New groundwater regulations could mean graves would have to be two thirds bigger, and an updated council burial strategy will take the likely changes into account.

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The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is consulting on new rules that, if adopted, would set a minimum grave size of five square metres in England and Wales.

Burial plots in Telford & Wrekin Council's three cemeteries are currently three square metres, and it is estimated that one site will fill up within the decade while the others have about 30 and 40 years' capacity under current rules and trends.

A council spokesperson said the authority would respond to DEFRA's consultation by the December 22 deadline. The burial strategy is expected next year.

The DEFRA consultation document says the department aims to amend permit regulations that have been place since 2016.

"In the face of growing pressures from climate change and population growth, it is important that we optimise the regulatory tools available for managing and protecting groundwater quality," it says.

The department aims to introduce "general binding rules" for activities that have a low-level impact on groundwater, a list which includes operating cemeteries with fewer than 100 burials a year. Higher-impact activity would require a permit.

One of these rules would introduce a minimum five square metre area per grave. Many of the others concern plots' depth and distance from water courses.

Telford & Wrekin Council is responsible for cemeteries at Ironbridge, Wellington and Wombridge. Other cemeteries, at Hadley, Ketley and Newport, are managed by their respective parish or town councils, and there are two church-run cemeteries in the borough as well.

The three borough council cemeteries say 115, 138 and 154 burials took place in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively. The borough council spokesperson estimated that, if the regulations – including the standard three square metre plot size – stayed the same and trends continued, Wellington would have capacity until 2029, Ironbridge until 2050 and Wombridge until 2060.

Clerks at Hadley and Leegomery Parish Council, Ketley Parish Council and Newport Town Council have confirmed that their current plot sizes are around three square metres. The DEFRA consultation was discussed by councillors in all three areas during November.

Telford & Wrekin Council's spokesperson said: "We are aware of DEFRA's consultation on amendments to the regulations and will be responding within the timeframe.

"Having reviewed the draft proposals, we will also be bringing forward the introduction of our new burial strategy next year to take into account any changes which may come into effect as a result of this consultation."

DEFRA's consultation is open until Wednesday, December 22. Further details are available at

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