Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Northallerton and Romanby Joint Burial Committee (CEM 58)


  The cemetery is a library of the town's past which the local community revere and learn from, and, in some cases points the way to the future using past experiences. The cemetery during the summer months is also used as a park, a place where people spend a peaceful break very often with sandwiches during lunch breaks and we encourage as many local people as possible to visit the cemetery and thus gain support for its well being.


  Northallerton cemetery is like most rural cemeteries which have suffered from a lack of funding over the years therefore there is a backlog of works to both property and grounds, the total cost of which cannot be inflicted by immediate precept upon the people. It's a choice of not what you do but when you do it? For example new burial ground is required for which the JBC must cater, and to make this self financing the charges have been deflected upon burial plots ie from £240 to £600, a significant increase.


  The existing roles and responsibilities as expressed in Powers relating to the Dead and subsequent additions and various statutes are in our view quite sufficient to carry out management of and protection of cemeteries.


  You will see from 2 above that we are planning the development of new burial space. We were under the impression as many people were that burial space over 100 years old could be re-used. However, after contacting the Home Office in January of this year we were informed that for this to happen it would be necessary to have primary and full legislation. The HO made the point that they believed that additional burial space would not be a problem in a rural area like Northallerton, however, people in Northallerton and Romanby express the wish that they be buried near the town centre because to have a burial area outside the town boundary could not be served by the present rural transport arrangement and the distance from the local parish church. So clearly it would assist if either burial plots could be dug deeper or totally re-used because, as you will no doubt be aware virtually nothing exists of the remains after 100 years.


  The local people are very satisfied and complimentary about the management of and provision of the present cemetery services.


  The management of the present cemetery is carried out by the JBC consisting of Northallerton Town and Romanby Parish Council. Councillors are drawn in equal numbers from both councils onto the JBC which meets at least once a quarter to act as overall management of the cemetery and its services with a part-time paid Clerk.


  The cemetery is serviced by a Caretaker who lives on site and carries out grave digging, grass cutting and observation of all sub contractors (eg Stonemasons) assisted by two part-time employees during the grass cutting season.


  The JBC are fully aware that the Cemetery, its management and services is a Commercial business like any other and funding principally comes from the precept on Northallerton and Romanby Parish Council and income from burials and any borrowing requirement from the PWLB. It is not possible under these circumstances to fully fund the cemetery and one must always bear in mind the heavy precept to do so. Therefore we have a backlog of works which is generated from the past which could not be funded.

  You will be aware that PCs are not grant aided at all so with the constraints upon us it is not possible to build up a war chest. Therefore, it is a question of deciding on a risk assessment basis what works should be carried out. We believe firmly that the JBC should be grant aided directly through both PCs in order to maintain the services required by Northallerton and Romanby residents.


  The JBC have in the course of looking at developing further burial space learned things which we previously had not contemplated:


  Whilst our cemetery is mainly composed of Anglican and Catholic burials one can never say the split of numbers each year and if this is over quite a number of years we find ourselves in the position where we had sufficient burial spaces for the Anglican residents for two to three years but find ourselves with under one year's availability for Catholic burials. Therefore the development of new works was made necessary at an earlier date by the Catholic burial requirement.


  Obviously to cremate everyone is the final answer. However, this would require legislation which we are only too well aware will not occur in the short term.


  We as a JBC welcome this enquiry into cemeteries and we sincerely hope that our experiences which are referred to above will be of assistance.

  It is obvious that local councils must do what the people require. In Northallerton and Romanby the people are of a rural disposition and they prefer to be buried in the local cemetery. Our problem is clear, we must try to meet the aspirations of the public, but by doing so, find ourselves in the financial position which requires more than we can precept and support from grant aided funding is very, very necessary.

J. Pelter


J. Dobson

Vice Chairman

December 2000

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