Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


MEMORANDA


SUBMITTED TO THE ENVIRONMENT SUB-COMMITTEE OF THE ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

Memorandum by The Natural Death Centre (CEM 01)

  The Natural Death Centre is a charitable project which acts as a consumer watchdog on anything to do with funerals and death and dying and which has set up the Association of Nature Reserve Burial Grounds (for woodland burials).

RE CEMETERIES FILLING UP

  It is the Centre's view that whilst burial is "greener" than cremation, and whilst cemeteries are often a haven for wildlife (and reuse of graves is sensible with adequate safeguards) it is less desirable to encourage the creation of new cemeteries than to encourage the creation of woodland burial grounds, where the body is returned to nature often in a biodegradable coffin with a tree planted on or near the grave. It is government policy to increase the amount of woodland in the UK. Woodland burial also allows farmers to diversify their income and allows local authorities to make provision for the growing number of their residents who would prefer a "green" funeral. The woodland burial movement is, the Centre believes, the fastest growing environmental movement in the UK—up from one site in 1993 to over 100 today—and your committee would do well to seek oral evidence from Ken West, the pioneer of this movement, who is bereavement services manager for Carlisle local authority, running an award-winning cemetery and crematorium, and who started the woodland burial ground there. He has figures to demonstrate that woodland burial grounds are more economically feasible for local authorities to set up and maintain. He has also developed the excellent Charter for the Bereaved which a number of local authorities have now signed up to.

RE CEMETERIES AND RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION

  In the Natural Death Centre's recent survey of crematoria and cemeteries (attached to this letter), it will be seen that these are gradually improving in the diversity of funeral they will permit. But it is the Centre's view that a situation where, for instance, still only 60 per cent of cemeteries will accept burial in a shroud or kaftan, amounts to religious discrimination against those who require this type of funeral.

Nicholas Albery

Director

November 2000


 
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