Public health burials

Green burials

If considering burial in the grounds of a family home then you must

  • register the death of the deceased
  • obtain a cause of death certificate from a doctor
  • submit form to the Registrar within 5 days of the death
  • the Registrar will then issue a green certificate unless the Coroner needs to be informed
  • the burial should then take place within 14 days

Planning consent

You do not need planning consent for a home burial for a grave, as long as there is no material ‘change of use’ but planning permission may be required if monuments are erected etc.

Do your family intend to continue ownership of the property for a long period?

If they do not intend to stay more than a few years as owners of the property, then burying on the land may not appropriate for a number of reasons:

  • your family may experience problems when they come to sell a property with a grave in the grounds.
  • if the land is sold your family will not have right of access to the grave.
  • if your family wishes to relocate the body, they will need to obtain an exhumation licence from the Home Office. Exhumation may be difficult.
  • the new owners of the property may not wish for the body to remain on the site and could apply for an exhumation licence to have the body removed, this would not require your family’s permission and they may not even be consulted on the matter.
  • the land may be developed at a later date; it is therefore recommended that an 'informative' be added to the land register and to the deeds of the property, so that a permanent record of the burial ground is made for future purchasers.

Physical considerations

  • the burial plot should be away from a house and away from services such as drainage, cables and gas supplies.
  • the burial plot should be deep enough to prevent foraging animals from disturbing the body.
  • the plot should have at least one metre of subsoil below its base with at least one metre of soil to cover the coffin 
  • the grave should not contain any standing water when it is first dug and should not be dug in very sandy soil. This should reduce the likelihood of the walls of the grave caving in when excavating the ground.

Intervention powers of local authority

Should a nuisance arise as a result of the burial the we have powers to deal with premises that are prejudicial to health or a nuisance, and could serve an Abatement Notice requiring such action to prevent the nuisance and remedial action may require the relocation of the body.

Should the site of the grave affect or is likely to affect a private water supply then we can intervene to avert this.

Intervention powers of the Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has powers to carry out works or operations to prevent any polluted matter from entering controlled waters. This could apply to a badly sited grave and could require removal of the body. For further details on this matter you should contact the Environment Agency.

Persons dying with infectious diseases

Although there is no requirement for cremation of persons dying with infectious diseases other than for anthrax, strict precautions do need to be taken when handling bodies with infectious diseases. If a relative has died, or is dying while carrying an infectious disease, and your relatives wish to carry out a home burial, it is imperative that they contact us for advice, so that the health and well being of your relatives and the general public can be safeguarded. 

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