Memorandum by Stockport Metropolitan Borough
Council (CEM 74)
This report has concentrated on the provision
of cemetery services, however, crematorium services are clearly
integrally linked to the modern day bereavement service and will
be commented on as appropriate.
Cemeteries have historically been subject to:
management with limited long term planning; a lack of investment
opportunities; low recognition as a valuable asset within our
cultural history and undervalued as a habitat for bio-diversity.
The Cemetery in the City report (Comedia 1997)
was accepted as a useful document, outlining the challenges facing
cemetery services at the time, which are still relevant today.
Stockport has used the guidance within the report to act as a
framework for developing the service.
Recently the Council has noted an increase in
the number of private companies which are interested in managing
a cemetery and crematorium service on behalf of the Authority.
Further work is needed in Stockport to determine if operating
in partnership with such agencies would add value to the service
provided, and so represent Best Value to the local community.
Cemeteries clearly hold a high significance
with the local community, with many people who otherwise do not
visit cemeteries wanting to feel comfortable in the knowledge
that they are available when required.
Cemeteries are not necessarily a
local resource and can be of regional and national value.
There is a lack of management information
to demonstrate the worth of cemeteries outside of their primary
function, in terms of the impact on the environment, history and
culture of an area.
The management of cemeteries can
significantly contribute to the sustainability agenda, promoting
local Agenda 21 and Bio-diversity plans.
Cemeteries represent considerable
areas of greenspace, especially within the urban townscape.
Many sites have been subject to minimal
recent change, therefore these areas act as important refuges
for wildlife and so offer opportunities for conservation.
Older types of memorial are a haven
for lichens/mosses etc.
Less visited areas can be developed
into sites of significant bio-diversity value.
in available finance has meant the introduction and development
of wildlife areas in cemeteries. An education programme is needed
to ensure customers accept that wildflower cemeteries are not
accidental but exist as a result of management choice to promote
bio-diversity. This type of development is not generally appreciated
by all visitors or the bereaved as they perceive the areas to
be uncared for.
Environmental richness versus ease
of maintenanceto keep maintenance costs down there is a
move towards large lawned cemeteries which are limited in bio-diversity
[especially the case with new cemeteries].
The level of maintenance carried
out should be much higher.
Change in visitor transport methods,
with more visitors using cars, resulting in pressure for car parking
and on roadways.
The balance between burial and environmental
concerns regarding cremation [EPA] could have a significant impact
on whether cremation or burial is favoured in future, owing to
the potential application of prohibitive costs, which reflect
the associated impact of the respective activity on the environment.
The application of pollution controls
on the decay material of the dead reaching the water cycle.
Changes in coffin design does directly
affect the breakdown material produced, including the use of environmentally
friendly cardboard coffins. Greener applications are being introduced.
Woodland burialsmore opportunity
for habitat development. Indigenous woodlands provide excellent
habitats, but have specific maintenance requirements.
The historical value of cemeteries is often
overlooked as a primary record of local history,
Cemeteries and their link to local
Tombs of local dignitaries [Private
Reflection of social and cultural
Can illustrate differences between
Illustrates fashions in burial and
As an educational resource in its
Cemeteries have as much significance
as recognised heritage buildings in terms of value and esteem.
Stockport MBC was made up of a number
of Urban Districtsdifferent approaches across the borough
[i.e. design, lay out, socio economic indicators] enabling comparison.
Modern day memorialisation equates
to tomorrow's history.
Wording on memorialisation acts as
primary historical evidence, supporting family history and geneology
Pavement cemeteries, which have been
fashionable, are now in danger of the memorialisation being worn
off by the weather and foot traffic.
Often economic development pressure
overides the historical significance of cemeteries eg supermarket
at Edgeley: road widening, car parking etc resulting moving bodies
to new resting place. As a consequence records of historical importance
Many original cemeteries were built
with high regard to ornate walls/copings/memorials with a high
historical and aesthetic value.
There is little historical interpretation
of cemeteries within Stockport, which could add value to the sites
For health and safety and economic
reasons memorials are often laid flat, if they fall into a state
of disrepair, thus reducing the value of the artefact.
The nature of memorials in cemeteries
change over time reflecting the changing prosperity and fashions
of a locality, creating a chronological reference.
As part of the bereavement process, cemeteries
A focal point for the bereaved to
express their grief.
An opportunity to make a statement
ie "Fred was here and was important".
Personal opportunity to say a fond
People feel very strongly about themincluding
people who never visit a place of worship.
You do not need to be religious for
a cemetery to be important culturally ie it is how we deal with
Owing to the increased prevalance
of different religions within our society, a wider variety of
service delivery approaches are now required to meet the needs
of different parts of the community.
Modern day requirements, such as
memorialisation by the use of windmills, may be at conflict with
traditional perspectives of how a cemetery should be managed/presented.
Single burials is a requirement of
certain communities and the accepted norm in Britain, creating
pressure on land use.
In some cases cemeteries may be important
areas as visitor "attractions", generating internal
and external tourism.
Respect for cemeteries is waning,
therefore we have an important role in redefining their place
in society, so that the facilities are held in high regard by
The condition of cemeteries are variable
depending on the age, ease of maintenance, level of historical
funding, and the security arrangements of the sites.
A major issue is the up keep of old
memorials where families die off, as they are a direct burden
on the Local Authority. There is no money to sustain these memorials,
so they are potentially lost as historical artefacts.
Grounds Maintenanceoften bland
and mechanistic eg Herbicide use and other modern techniques diminish
Condition of footpaths, drives, drains,
walls, fences etc are particularly poor owing to a lack of investment
Housing developments adjacent to
cemeteries creates tensions regarding the use of greenspace for
leisure purposesespecially with young people playing in
The prevention of dog fouling on
cemetery land owing to leisure use and a lack of respect for sites
traditionally held as sacrasanct.
Some cemeteries have had uniqueness
designed out of them for ease of maintenance and health and safety
reasons eg Grass lawned cemeteries eg Portwood and Covent Garden
Cemeteries in Stockport.
Lack of historical long term investment.
No statutory obligation to maintain
burial sites. The money received in year one is not re-invested
to sustain the cemeteries infrastructure.
Reactive maintenance/management prevails
with an annual/short term view.
The ownership of a memorial is technically
with the family, however where repairs and maintenance costs are
too high the quality of the memorial may diminish over time.
Further considerations are the maintenance
of old cemetery lodges and the location of maintenance depots
The Home Office has responsibility
for most legislation affecting cemeteries.
The Environment Agency [EA] could
significantly affect burial costs if more stringent conditions
on drainage water from cemeteries are imposed [control of pollutants].
If the EA does not operate in partnership, then this could have
an adverse effect on the provision of cemeteries across the country.
There is no formal register of cemeteries,
which could be included in the National Land Information Services
Burial and Cremation Association
to take a more active role.
Need for co-ordinated approach from
other agencies e.g dentists use of mercury in cavity fillings.
Rising costs of cremation through
E.P.A may tip balance back towards burial.
The development of future accreditation
schemes may help promote the quality of cemetery management.
Protection of sites of heritage importance
through a listing scheme managed by English Heritage would help
to protect sites and potentially draw in funding. The role of
stakeholders needs to be agreed to ensure decisions are not taken
in isolation. eg Church Diocese. Local Government and National
Need to improve the long-term planning
across all stakeholders.
Legislation to improve the sustainability
of cemeteries is needed ie: Financial and Environmental.
Currently there are no statutory
requirements on Local Authorities to provide burial space
The current situation in Stockport
is that 40 years worth capacity is available. Normally need a
10 year lead in to establish a cemetery.
83 per cent of people are cremated
and 15 per cent select burial.
Historically there has been a slow
decline in burial with a move towards cremation. However, this
relationship is currently relatively stable.
The enforcement of charges by the
EPA will influence the preferred method owing to the relative
cost associated with cremation or burial.
Demographical change creating a potential
increase in land pressure eg certain Ethnic Groups prefer burial
which takes up more land.
Baby burialburying at a much
earlier age and at present the service is free of charge in Stockport.
Long-term planning guidance needed with regards to baby burials.
Local authority, private sector or
a joint partnership are potential arrangements for the management
of cemetery services. The private sector market is maturing with
regards to the capacity to deliver Cemetery Services. The Best
Value regime is encouraging Local Authorities to look at new ways
of managing the provision.
Source of management is not important
it is the quality of the service that counts.
Specific niches could be developed
further ie business opportunities.
Stockport's approach to existing
and future management arrangements:
Public becoming more discerningthe
24 hour booking service introduced at Stockport has been welcomed.
One Stop shop facilities via an intergrated
service provision is under consideration.
Effective Marketing and Publicity
is essential to remove the myths and fears eg open days etc.
Essential to make the facilities
and service welcoming and considerate to the bereaved needs, at
a time of heightened emotions/stress.
Attracting high calibre personnel
is an issue owing to the nature of the work and consideration
is needed to make the job as attractive as possible, with a continuous
professional development pathway available for the respective
Customer care vitalpeople
at their loneliesthelp and assistance. Use of music at
receptionmodern facilities well received at Stockport.
Front of House needs to be high Quality.
Private maintenance arrangementssome
development in this area. National Franchise company with local
firms carrying out maintenance.
for management and provision of cemetery services:
The Council supplies the following
services to the public through the Cemetery and Crematorium section:
Administration to ensure the accurate
booking of funerals, that all statutory documents are supplied,
records are kept in the prescribed manner and the cemeteries and
memorials within are properly regulated.
Advisory service on all matters
connected to cemeteries and crematoria [eg DIY funerals, choice
of memorials, inheritance of graves and genealogical searches].
Development in the cemeteries, eg provision
and layout of new burial land, adding new aesthetic features [and
removing old ones] adjusting the service to changes in public
Gravedigging service via in-house contractor.
Provision of facilities for services,
eg chapels, music.
Maintenance of the infrastructure of
the cemetery by both in-house and outside contractors and the
safety of the cemeteries.
Grounds maintenance by in-house contractor.
Civic funeral service via outside contractor.
FUNDING AND ECONOMICAL VIABILITY ETC
Income targets are used to offset
expenditure, however an element of the money should be set aside,
to provide a sinking fund to help maintain the facilities. This
is not common practice.
Endowment policiesusing headstone
income to establish a fund for future upkeep, as an area of development.
Heritage value of cemeteriesrequires
resource procurement asareas of historical importance.
The qualification criteria for a
number of resource procurement streams need to be realigned to
enable monies to be released to support the infrastructure of
cemeteries eg Heritage Lottery Fund, Landfill Tax etc.
The Church's role in the provision
of funding and the future direction.
New cemeteries generate profit owing
to high income generation and low maintenance costs which is attractive
to private sector operators.
Old cemeteries with low grave space
and high associated costs are less attractive.
Must build in long-term financial
planning and enable access to funding streams.
Public sector funding in the past
had a subsidy built into the rates to support the upkeep of cemeteries
but this has been eroded resulting in higher cemetery fees.
Front of house must be good.
Predict future needs.
Holistical management/maintenance of
Funeral Directors rolepartners.
24 hour accessImproved consultation
with customers to ensure the appropriate development of the service
E Government agenda and application of
All suppliers of bereavement services must be
in tune with changing needs of the bereaved, and consultation
is an increasingly important part of Stockport's cemetery management.
It is essential that there is the supply of sufficient funding
to achieve the long term provision of burial land and also the
high quality management and maintenance of cemeteries.
Ben Williams Acting Assistant
Norman Hudson Head of