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Burying and Laws

It is possible to bury a loved one in your garden. The law is contained in the Burial Laws Amendment Act 1880. A person who knows the circumstances of the death and has a lawful certificate of the cause of death must first register a death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

It is then necessary to obtain consent from the local authority to enable the burial to take place. A body comes within the definition of "clinical waste" and as such cannot be disposed of except under the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and the Environment Protection Act 1990. A licensed operator is usually needed but a local authority may waive the requirement in special circumstances. Remember it is a criminal offence to dispose of "controlled waste" otherwise than in accordance with the Acts. Before you consider such a burial stop and THINK what you would do if you ever decided to move!
Ashes: These can be freely scattered in the garden or buried in a container eg.under a favourite tree.

Headstone: So long as they are not too near a highway or over a certain height, planning permission is not needed to put up a headstone in a garden.

The following is an alternative view. We make no comment on it, simply introduce it to you.

"DIY Burial": All the material on this page is taken from the excellent book "Green Burial" by JB Bradfield and published by the Natural Death Centre. Available from either the Natural Death Centre.

As soon as you mention burial outside of a cemetery, a great wave of learned opinion will strike you, coming from Aunty Flo, Government departments and everyone in between. It is opinion that has the majority of the country earnestly believing that burial outside of consecrated ground is illegal, and opinion that makes one council actively help its residents if they want burial outside of a cemetery whilst another attempts to obstruct it.

Planning law surrounding burial is vague and it is individuals' interpretation of these laws that causes confusion. However, the practicalities of arranging a burial are very simple.

I confirm to you that planning permission is not required for the burial of one or two persons....While planning permission is not required, [it is] strongly advised to consult [the] local authority to ensure [the grave] would not...be polluting the water table. You would also be advised to append a plan of where the body is to the deeds of your property. (Letter to Natural Death Centre from Department of Environment 12.5.94)

Note the word advised.

You do not need planning permission. Neither do you need to contact the Environmental Health Department. All that you need is permission from the land owner (yourself if you own your garden). The Council will have to get permission from the Home Office to exhume you, if they feel strongly about your choice of burial site. (Which they are unlikely to get). Consulting the local authority about the water table is not good idea, since this will set alarm bells off all over the Town Hall and you will be interfered with. Infact, the pollution of the water table is very unlikely from one or two bodies.

Dead bodies will not cause problems once they are buried since the earth acts as a deodorizer and cleaning agent. However, if you are particularly concerned about this, contact the Rivers Authority for advice. They suggest, for instance,that burial should not take place within 10 meters of any standing or running water.

Infectious disease shouldn't cause you a problem either, unless you die of anthrax, heamoragic fever, cholera, plague (which one is not made clear), relapsing fever, smallpox or typhus. Even if you were to die of one of these bizarre illnesses, your family could take you home from hospital as long as they were going to bury or cremate you immediately.

Please note that AIDS is not a notifiable disease and creates no problem in burial.

The regulations about depth of graves is either specific or nonexistent. In some old towns the following may apply,

No coffin shall be buried in any grave without less than 30 inches of soil between the surface of [the ground] and the upper side of the coffin. (Section 103 Burial Act 1847 chapter 34)

That's less than 3 feet, however, its probably best to dig a 4 foot hole, since this will allow about 3 feet between the upper surface of the body, assuming that you will not be using a coffin, and the ground surface. "6 feet under" is a colloquialism. In ordinary cemeteries, a body may be given a 6 foot deep grave, but another body will be placed on top of it in the future.

You need to be practical when deciding where you want your grave. Sandy soils are dangerous to dig in to any depth, and rock will obviously limit how far down you can dig.

If you are digging a grave yourself, you need to be careful and have help. If you are fit and enthusiastic, it should take about three hours work to dig a four foot deep grave. Try and shore up the first two feet of the grave so that it is supported when the mourners stand around it, and work steadily so that you don't strain yourself. You might want to take a bucket to stand on so that you can get out of the grave at the end of a tiring day!

You will also need to make careful measurements of the body and any receptacle it will be in. To be absolutely certain that these measurements are correct, it's sensible to measure the height and width of the body with dowling rod, cutting the rod to the right size and dangling these rods on string right down into the grave. The last thing you want is a grave that is too short or narrow.

You are not obliged to use a coffin. Even "green coffins" require energy to be used in their construction and transportation, and some use a type of PVC that gives off Dioxins. The body can be dressed or naked. It can be wound in a sheet or put in a body bag. To lower it into the earth, you will need at least two long rope lengths, probably more, so that it can be carefully rested at the bottom of the grave. And the grave needs to be covered with a board to prevent people falling in. It does not need to be filled in immediately. Some of us might like to spend a little time with the body before it is covered with earth.

You need to make a register for the grave. This means that you will need a piece of paper with the name, address, date of birth, age, date and place of burial and the name of the "minister". A drawing also needs to to be kept with the register, showing the exact location of the grave. You need to keep these papers safe so that there will be no fear of your grave being disturbed by accident.

Because choice is possible within the law, we have the opportunity to bury ourselves where we want and be certain that the land around us cannot be tampered with. The implications for conservation are enormous! And although it's tempting to consult with officials, there really is no need.

We need to be very aware that our culture is the only thing standing between us and a burial within any part of the Land that we like. Dead bodies are not evil receptacles of disease. They do not corrupt the land or water. (How many dead sheep have you seen in lakes, streams and reservoirs?) Soil and the creatures in the soil and in the body itself will break it down safely and cleanly.

I would suggest that wherever possible, we do not bring officialdom into our plans, even on a matter of principal, since their knowledge of the law is generally appalling and their actions based on their own fears and from living in a culture which has turned its back on anything to do with death. Rather, we should take advantage of the law as it stands, and think about conservation and feeding of the land.

For those of us who are not concerned about being buried with others of whatever faith, burial out in the open land is an achievable and worthwhile aim."

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