Burial on Private Land

Home Burials and Burials on Private Land

Traditionally, the concept of burials has been closely linked to conventional cemeteries. However, a growing trend is emerging among individuals in search of a more intimate and meaningful choice: private land burial.

This is primarily connected to the rise of green, or natural, burial sites. However, a burial can also take place in a private garden or other area of privately owned land.

This choice gives those organising the funeral complete freedom and flexibility to create a unique and personal service, and to lay their person to rest in a place that holds meaning and to which they may have a close or sentimental connection.

When choosing a home burial, there is no requirement to appoint a funeral director, although most people choose to use one for some of the more regulated requirements, such as storing the body or legal paperwork. There is also no need for the land to be consecrated.

If burial is taking place in the grounds of a private property, it is important to think about what will happen if the property changes hands, and how future generations will access and maintain the space.

Statutory and Legal Requirements for a Home Burial

The death needs to be registered with the local Register of Births and Deaths, for which a Doctor’s certificate is required.

There are a number of statutory requirements for home burials, particularly around the prevention of groundwater pollution. There may also be constraints around chemicals used for embalming.

It is advisable to contact the local council to talk to their Environmental Health Department as they will need to check that there is no risk to public health.

If you are the owner of the land, you will need to check the deeds in case there is a restrictive covenant preventing the burial of human remains. If the property is mortgaged the owner also needs to check the contract in case it is necessary to get the lender’s permission.

Planning permission is only required if there is going to be a permanent memorial or if the burial site constitutes a change of use (for example, if there are going to be a number of graves on the land).

In order to ensure that there is no contamination of the soil, it is advisable to choose a biodegradable coffin or urn (see Choosing a Coffin, Casket, Shroud or Urn and Green, Natural and Woodland Burial Sites for more information).

It will be necessary to prepare the burial site by excavating to a depth compliant with local regulations. Think about whether the grave will be dug by hand or whether it will be necessary to use a mechanical digger. If this is the case, consider cost and whether there is suitable access to the site?

The Funeral Service or Celebration of Life

The service or gathering which takes place alongside a home burial can take any form you like. It may include some or all of the elements of a more traditional service, or it might be something completely different and unique. The dress code and the ‘feel’ of the service is a matter of personal choice. It might be a calm and peaceful service of remembrance and thanks, or a joyful celebration of a life well lived. For more information, please see our information on Things to Consider for a Funeral Service and about Home Funerals.

Some may wish to organise and conduct the service themselves. Others may prefer to enlist the help of a funeral director or celebrant. Their expert knowledge, guidance and support can be invaluable at what is always a very difficult and emotional time.

Documenting Wishes

Documenting wishes for a home burial in a Will or a Letter of Funeral Wishes can help avoid confusion or conflict later on. It can help to have open discussions with those closest to you ahead of time to ensure that everyone knows and understands your choices, particularly since a Will may only be read after the funeral has taken place.

For more in-depth information and advice, the Home Funeral Network offers support, education and guidance for those organising a home-based, family led funeral.

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