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How to set up a Natural Burial Ground
The NDC is approached for advice about how to open a natural burial ground several times every week. We welcome enquiries and offer advice to potential new burial ground operators, as we wish to see the network of sites continue to expand both across the UK and beyond.
We know through experience the benefits that the provision of this choice brings, not only to families but to wildlife, biodiversity, the local community and the landowner.
The more sites that are available, the quicker the choice of natural burial will be seen as the norm. Most existing operators see this expansion of provision as a good thing, enhancing the movement for public choice in funeral provision as a whole.
We recommend provisional managers join the Association of Natural Burial Grounds. Provisional membership currently costs £75 for the year and enables access an unequalled source of information and tips about setting up and operating your own site. ANBG Members are also kept up to date with the latest news and guidance either generated by ourselves or outside organisations such as the Ministry of Justice.
Establish your aims
We would like to see burial grounds set up with the aim of improved choice for the local community, enabling more environmentally friendly funerals to take place, and the establishment of schemes that preserve and enhance biodiversity with a long-term sustainable future.
This provision does not have to be made as part of the perceived funeral industry and can be established very successfully whilst remaining competitively priced against other cemetery and cremation costs.
There are many hoops and hurdles to navigate when obtaining planning permission to change the use of land to a provision of a natural burial ground.
Some areas that will need consideration in the initial phases are the risks to ground water, a sustainable transport policy, archaeological disturbance, ecological scoping surveys and visual splays. There is also likely to be involvement with the local Arboriculture Officer or landscape conservation personnel, and other local authority departments. All these agencies will need to be satisfied with any proposal you have, and there is also the consideration of local opposition from residents. We have many tips that can help you through the numerous details that you will encounter.
Once you achieve planning permission, we have a wealth of suggestions that will help you avoid costly, unnecessary mistakes and industry gimmicks, conflicts with families and bad press. We can give you simple recommended procedures, all gained through the accumulation of practical experience and hindsight.
Use our expertise
Our best advice is to begin by reading the relevant section of the Natural Death Handbook. Having done this, we would suggest you contact our office and talk through the next stage, for example checking out the environment agencies ‘no go areas' in your area. This will give you a clearer idea whether or not a potential burial ground is a possibility in your chosen location.
Rosie Inman-Cook, manager of the NDC, is an experienced burial site owner/operator and a former winner of the award for the best natural burial ground in UK. With the combined knowledge of the staff and the trustees, and with the information gained from the feedback we receive from the public using the existing member’s sites, we can help potential new operators avoid costly mistakes and gimmicks.
Opening a natural burial ground can be a complicated and costly venture, however, some prospective operators have very few problems and seem to sail through this phase. Much depends on your site and your local planning authority.
Make a difference and reap rewards
Having said all this, if you do open a burial ground there is nothing more rewarding than helping families at a most awful time, knowing that you have made a real difference to their expererience, and, in the process also helped benefit the environment and, ultimately the planet.
It is a great thing to do and if you do it right for the right reasons and in the right way it will be a tremendous success. Very hard work though and a long-term commitment!
Think carefully about the future
On a more serious note, you will have to think carefully about how the burial ground will be managed and maintained in the future and what plans are in place to protect it - something families are usually very concerned about.
We look forward to hearing from you if you are contemplating opening a natural burial ground. It can be the most rewarding and positive business to be involved in.