Cemetery plans drawn up to forestall graveyard shortages

A FUTURE shortage of graveyard space is forcing local authorities across Scotland to draw up "cemetery strategies" to avoid capacity problems.

Rural and urban areas are having to secure new sites and recover unused lairs in existing cemeteries.

Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish Borders, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, Fife and East Dunbartonshire are among the councils that have identified potential problems.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Work on Edinburgh's first new cemetery for 50 years got under way yesterday. The local authority spent several years trying to find a site for a new cemetery capable of serving the capital for the next 50 years.

In East Dunbartonshire and Perth and Kinross, council chiefs have authorised the release of burial plots that have remained untouched for years after being bought privately.

Officials believe lairs purchased more than 40 years ago were almost certainly for people who were laid to rest elsewhere.

Both Fife and Scottish Borders Councils have considered the use of compulsory purchase orders to expand existing cemeteries because of the difficulties of finding and paying for the creation of new sites.

However, the situation is not as serious as it was in London last summer, when it was revealed that some councils were planning to reuse some old graves.

About 5,000 spaces for graves will be created at the new Edinburgh cemetery, near Craigmillar Castle.

Robert Aldridge, the environment leader at the city council, said: "The council has been seeking a suitable site for a new cemetery since 1992 and this was the only one that met our required criteria.

"The requirement came about as the stock of new graves at the principal cemetery at Mortonhall will be exhausted by 2009.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Work has now begun on a new principal cemetery for Edinburgh, which will serve the city for the next 50 years."

Iain Marin, a partner in the Edinburgh-based funeral directors Thomas Marin, said: "Councils have a legal obligation to provide burial plots, so this was obviously going to become an issue in Edinburgh.

"However, there is still a fair amount of capacity available in Mortonhall and it looks as if the council has been fairly ahead of the game in its planning."

More than 180 unused lairs were discovered at three cemeteries in East Dunbartonshire after an audit by the council.

A spokeswoman said: "We have a cemetery development plan which aims to ensure that we are always aware of the issues around supply and demand of burial space.

"We are currently looking at issues of space at some of our cemeteries but overall, capacity is good and developments over the last decade, including two new cemeteries, should see that position continue for many years to come."

A spokesman for West Lothian Council said: "We have plans to provide three new cemeteries at Fauldhouse, East Calder and West Calder and an extension at Woodbank Cemetery, Armadale. All our main cemeteries have available capacity."

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: "There is more than sufficient burial space within the city boundary.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The predicted 'usage' rates have been slower than anticipated and, as a result, there will be more than a decade of space left in the cemeteries.

"It is anticipated that there will be no long-term problem with cemetery space in the city."

A spokeswoman for Aberdeen City Council added: "There are no pressures at all predicted for the foreseeable future."


INDIVIDUAL burial spaces have only really been commonplace since the 19th century.

Before that, entire families were interred together, with the grave re-opened each time.

The earliest Britons entombed their chieftains in barrows carved out of the hillside, while lesser mortals were laid to rest in ditches.

The Romans feared their dead and banished them to cemeteries along roads leading out of town.

Under the influence of Christianity, the relics of saints were venerated and their burial places became shrines.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The great and the good paid high fees to be buried near the church. Most of the faithful went to their graves in little more than a shroud.

The average price of a simple burial in the UK is now about 2,700.