Although most burials take place in purpose-built cemeteries or churchyards, there is no law against burial on private land. The decision does need to be thought through carefully and there are a number of considerations.
What about access to visit the grave should the property be sold in the future? It would be possible to create a right of access for grave visits by way of an easement, but such an arrangement may deter a purchaser. What effect would a burial or burials have on the property value or the ability to sell the property in the future?
Once remains have been buried, they may not be disturbed or removed without authorisation and a licence. There is no guarantee that future owners of the property would allow a burial to rest in peace and could apply for a license from the Home Office for an exhumation. In addition, future owners may prevent access to relatives who wish to pay their respects at the burial site.
You should also consider the social impact on any immediate neighbours, particularly if you are overlooked.
Planning permission is not required for one or two burials as there is unlikely to be a material change of use. However, if any monuments are planned at the site then planning permission may be required. If you need further advice please contact the council’s Development Management team. Contamination of water supplies is something you will need to consider. There are guidelines to follow which can help you to prevent any contamination.
If you do choose to arrange for a burial on private land you can organise a very personal funeral in which you maintain total control. It is not essential to have a funeral director or anyone to conduct a service.
What you can do
There are a number of things which you MUST do.
You must register the death and obtain a Certificate of Authority for Burial.
- The registration of the death is the formal record of the death. It is done by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and you will find the address of the nearest register office on our website. It is a criminal offence not to register a death
- When someone dies at home, the death should be registered at the register office for the district where they lived. If the death took place in hospital or in a nursing home it must be registered at the register office for the district in which the hospital or home is situated
- A death should be registered within five days but registration can be delayed for another nine days if the registrar is told that a medical certificate has been issued. If the death has been reported to the coroner you cannot register it until the coroner's investigations are finished
You must arrange for, or allow for the arrangement of, the deceased to be buried or cremated or otherwise preserved.
You must have permission from the landowner for a burial. In addition, the landowner must ensure there are no restrictive covenants attached to the title deeds or registration of the property that prohibit burial.
You must ensure that any local water supplies will not be affected. You can usually do this by ensuring the burial takes place
- At least 10 metres from any ‘dry’ ditch or field drain
- At least 30 metres from any spring or running or standing water
- At least 250 metres from any well, borehole or spring that supplies water for any use
- The bottom of the burial cavity must be free of standing water when excavated, i.e. that it is above the local water table and there should be a minimum of 1m of soil substrate below the cavity, i.e. that the burial does not take place on rock
You should ensure there is a minimum of 1 metre from the coffin top to the soil surface to prevent the burial site from being disturbed.
The owner of the land on which the burial has taken place must prepare and keep a Burial Register in a safe place which can be passed onto future owners of the land. (Registration of Burials Act 1864). The Land Registry (since 2002) no longer holds notification of any burials on private land. A Burial Register is a document that records details of the deceased and of the burial, including an accompanying plan showing the grave’s location.
You do not need to
Use a certain type of coffin, or indeed any coffin at all.
Use an undertaker or other official to conduct a ceremony.
Although planning permission is not required for a limited number of burials, some built memorials would attract the attention of the planning authority. This need not be a concern if you just intend to plant a tree.
What we can do
We do not need to be involved but would be happy to discuss your concerns if you are worried about the siting of the burial plot.