Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by West Hoe Cemetery—Bishop's Waltham Hampshire (CEM 24)

  The following memorandum is submitted by the West Hoe Cemetery Management committee a sub-committee of Bishop's Waltham and Swanmore Parish Councils in order to assist with the inquiry into cemeteries.

1.  ENVIRONMENTAL, HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF CEMETERIES FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES

  There is a requirement for environmental control of cemeteries, especially with the increasing pressure on land use for housing, farming and open space. There is also requirement to control the spread of new age burial areas (Green burials).

  Historically, burials were always associated with the church and subsequent burial within the church grounds especially in both town and village areas well into the late Victorian era when both cremation and public burial areas came into being.

  As the 20th century evolved churchyards became full and more use was made of public cemeteries with no forward planning being apparent.

  There is a requirement for the ongoing provision of new burial areas, which are now mostly being planned as community cemeteries serving the local population of a given area. There is also a requirement for investigation into the sensitive re-use of old burial grounds.

  Cemeteries/churchyards have an important role within the community, as places of rest for loved ones thereby giving a focal point for the grieving process. This process requires a centre point for families therefore requiring a local cemetery or crematorium, which can be visited. There is a problem in that families attend graves for a short period, but should the cemetery be a distance from the home then the grave becomes non-attended.

  Local cemeteries and crematoriums should be planned with the family members being encouraged to attend the grave or ashes dispersal area.

  Such areas have a given lifespan and therefore a requirement will arise for the control and management of such areas, coupled with consideration for the provision of new burial grounds that take into account future demand.

  Consideration should also be given to central funeral areas that provide for both cremation and burial, include green space burial with tree planting schemes such as Harwood Park in Hertfordshire.

1a.   Bishop's Waltham and Swanmore West Hoe Cemetery

  The West Hoe cemetery is situated on the boundary of Bishop's Waltham and Swanmore, serving both communities. The management committee, a sub-committee of both parish councils, also accepts requests for burial from outside the area, mainly from people who have a family affiliation with both areas.

  Commenced in 1980 as a necessity, West Hoe cemetery is a non-denominational cemetery that came into being at a time when both St Peter's (Bishop's Waltham) and St Barnabas (Swanmore) churchyards approached full. There is an area which enables the interment of ashes as a garden of remembrance, with a pre-arranged burial area.

  The West Hoe cemetery land covers some 15 acres, of which around half forms the present cemetery, with the remaining area let for cultivation divided from the present area by a natural hedge.

2.  THE CONDITION OF EXISTING CEMETERIES

  The condition of existing cemeteries causes present day problems with most cemeteries being overgrown, especially in the areas that contain graves dating back from the mid 20th century which have become uncared for.

  The conditions of these areas become un-kept and derelict due to financial pressures, also next of kin have no interest in the upkeep of the grave, or they themselves have passed away. Such areas should be kept tidy to a point but with an ecological application for the area.

2a.   West Hoe Cemetery

  West Hoe is maintained to a high standard in accordance with a laid down maintenance schedule drawn up by the committee with a contractor. A caretaker is also employed. The cemetery is also managed with ecology in mind and there are long grass areas, with microclimates around tree bases. This management system has been in place for the past three years with a marked increase in wildlife.

  The cemetery has also gained full points each year for the past four years in the Southern England in Bloom competition on an annual basis.

3.  ROLE OF DETR AND GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS IN THE MANAGEMENT OF CEMETERIES AND CREMATORIA

  There is a pressing requirement for all responsible government agencies to oversee the care and condition of all cemeteries, whilst putting into place a forward plan for the provision of new burial areas. These may be community, or urban burial areas in keeping with projected future requirement placed against the increased lifespan of the Population.

  Such plans would require funding through County, Town and Parish Councils. There should be a controlled policy regarding the introduction of private burial grounds. Consideration should also be given to the re-use of old burial grounds even for the scattering of ashes, with memorials.

  New age burials in green sites should also be considered and where suitable introduced with tree planting programmes. Consideration of allowing pet owners to be interred within pet cemeteries should be considered in order to meet the changes taking place in the world.

  There is also a requirement to further educate people towards cremation, with associated memorial gardens and woodlands to be seen as a way of the future. Such a move would elevate the pressure placed for the provision of precious open space to be given up as burial grounds.

  The general public should be educated towards the protection and maintenance of existing cemeteries and the introduction of new burial areas. Cremation should be encouraged as an accepted way of life, although some 75 per cent of funerals today are cremations. There should be greater use of a charter for the bereaved.

4.  LONG TERM PLANNING FOR CEMETERIES AND BURIAL SPACE

  Both District and Local Councils should undertake long term planning, with projected burial requirements being placed into the local plan iaw the local population figures.

4a.   West Hoe

  West Hoe has been in use for 20 years. There is in place a long-term plan for the development of the cemetery taking into account the requirement for burial and interment of ashes.

  Having taken 20 years to complete the first phase of interments totalling 324 burial plots that are single, double or triple depth as requested at the first interment into an identified grave.

  The second burial area has commenced. It is not possible to predict how long this area will take to complete. As an estimate the area at present available could take 100 years to fill.

5.  THE MANAGEMENT AND PROVISION OF CEMETERY SERVICES

  The management of cemeteries should fall to the area or District Council. Not all Parish Councils have burial responsibility unless the local churchyard becomes full. There is then a requirement for further burial space to be provided.

  Where possible both Local Councils and Parish Councils should take joint responsibility in both providing and caring for burial areas. This should also include plans for future requirements.

5a.   West Hoe

  The West Hoe cemetery management committee works as a combined Parish Council burial authority with the committee consisting of three Parish Councillors from the two Parish Councils who elect to serve on the committee. The local firm of undertakers is also represented.

  The Chair of the committee rotates between the two Parish Councils on a yearly basis. The management committee has worked this way since inception; this system works very well and should be further encouraged elsewhere within Parish Councils.

  The management committee is working to a long-term plan regarding the design and layout of the cemetery.

  Maintenance is carried out by contract with a grounds maintenance group whilst at the same time employing a caretaker who works part-time in caring for the general appearance of West Hoe, removing faded tributes, at the same time working on small projects ie placement of memorial seats etc.

  The management committee is aware that as the cemetery expands in size the financial responsibility of caring for the grounds and graves will increase. Whilst a flat charge is made for interments no further charges are made with regards to cover the grounds maintenance.

  At the present time costs for maintenance are taken from the income made from interment charges. It may not be possible for this to continue in the future as prices charged are at the top of the local range. To increase charges to cover increasing costs would have a negative effect.

  It is generally felt that charges must stay level and possibly some form of maintenance charge considered, or the fact will be that the respective Parish Councils will be required to meet the cost of maintenance in the near future.

6.  FUNDING AND ECONOMIC VIABILITY OF CEMETERIES

  As with most major undertakings in the present day, costs are prohibitive and there is a general requirement to undertake budgeting whilst still presenting a service to the public.

  The future of cemeteries will only be viable when funding and maintenance planning is available in order to care for cemeteries both large and small.

6a.   West Hoe

  As discussed previously the West Hoe management committee is working closely to a laid down plan that is reviewed on an annual basis. The present members feel that their work can be handed on to future members of the committee when dealing with the expansion of the cemetery in the coming years.

  West Hoe cemetery runs itself within the annual level of income received from interments, coupled with the administration charges arising from memorial applications, in general this works very well.

  Major projects are specified and costed, with the project cost met from both Parish Councils on a two thirds to Bishop's Waltham, one third basis to Swanmore. This year the car park was resurfaced, the project for 2001 is to replace the main gate with wooden gates.

  A millennium project was planned for the cemetery to provide a contemplation area or quiet area for the use of people to sit whilst waiting for funerals to commence. This would be a garden area with seating close to the lych gate and the entrance to the cemetery.

  The committee was refused funding by the festival awards for all schemes which disappointed the committee.

  With project cost and design completed the committee have sought and obtained 50 per cent funding from the District Council with the remaining funds being obtained from the Parish Councils ensuring that the project will be undertaken.

  The farmer of the adjoining land to the cemetery has recently signed up to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme under MAFF. This will see the adjoining land returned to green fields with wild grass and flower planting which the management committee fully support.

  The first 20 years have seen the shaping of West Hoe and with a given plan the future of West Hoe is assured and the cemetery should be capable of serving the surrounding community for at least the next 100 years.

Eric C Birbeck

Bishop's Waltham Parish Council, Chair West Hoe Cemetery Management Committee

December 2000


 
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