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Woodland burial ground could solve cemetery shortage

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Would you like to be buried in a woodland setting in Stansted? That is the question being posed by a parish councillor who believes it is the answer to solving the village’s burial crisis.

Cllr Daniel Brett, a keen conservationist, says the idea would also benefit the environment while offering local landowners the opportunity to diversify.

“With the environment now top of the global agenda and trees playing a central role in combating man-made climate change, people are increasingly seeing woodland burials as a positive legacy – either by planting a tree on their grave or scattering or burying ashes on a tree plot,” he wrote in his weekly blog.

Stansted Cemetery, St Mary's Church, Stansted Mountfitchet. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (27729129)
Stansted Cemetery, St Mary's Church, Stansted Mountfitchet. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (27729129)

“Natural burials involve burying people in biodegradable coffins, with no embalming chemicals – often referred to as “hygienic treatment” by undertakers – and no headstone.

“While it is proving hard to find a landowner to sell a parcel of land for creating a conventional cemetery, local farmers could consider woodland burial as an opportunity for diversification. An open acre of ground can hold about 700 bodies and one burial per week can yield annual profits of £40,000 (according to a report in Farmers’ Weekly).”

Mr Brett wants to generate local interest in the idea and chairman of the council’s open spaces committee, Cllr Alan Barnes, agreed it was worth investigating further. “If we get lucky and get the two acres we are looking for, that is something we could think about,” he told this month's meeting.

The council has already suspended the pre-purchase of burial plots at the village cemetery at St Mary the Virgin Church. The churchyard is full while the cemetery has around 10 plots remaining.

So far, attempts to secure more land have proved unsuccessful and the council issued an appeal to landowners last week to consider selling a site.

A £10,000 contingency has been set aside in this year’s budget to further expand cemetery facilities.

Mr Brett told the Indie this week: “Solutions must be found this year or the parish may soon be unable to bury its dead.

“Judging by the hits on my website, there is more interest in this idea than there was in the library opening and the Local Plan crisis. I think there is huge enthusiasm for woodland burial in and around Stansted. It just needs a local landowner to realise the commercial potential and work with the parish council to ensure that we can maintain a cemetery for the community."

Currently, there are ?? natural burial grounds in Essex and ?? in Uttlesford, according to the Natural Death Centre.

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