Problems with burial space in Wales

Cathays cemetery in Cardiff Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

An ITV Cymru Wales investigation has found parts of the country could run out of burial space within 20 years.

Freedom of Information requests to Wales’ 22 unitary authorities showed that;

  • Half of Conwy County Council’s cemeteries are already full
  • Flintshire County Council's spaces will run out within 13 years
  • Newport City Council's spaces will fill within 22 years

Town and community councils are also concerned about burial space.

In a survey, 36% of councils who responded said they only have enough space for the next 20 years, with 10% reporting their graveyards are already full.

Responsibility for burial space in Wales is shared between local authorities, town and community councils and the Church in Wales.

Llanddona Church on Anglesey Credit: ITV Cymru Wales
Rhian Hughes at Llanddona graveyard Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Llanddona on Anglesey is one example of where burial space is a problem and responsibility has now fallen onto the Community Council to secure future plots.

Local Llanddona resident, Rhian Hughes has generations of family buried in the churchyard and assumed she would have been buried there but that now looks in doubt.

It would be nice to come back. We say in Welsh, milltir sgwâr, that you're buried within the square mile of where you were born. It would be nice

– Rhian Hughes, Llanddona resident

The Church in Wales is also concerned about graveyard space. Two thirds of its burial space will be full in the next decade. It wants the Welsh Government and local authorities to help with the cost of maintenance and finding more land.

Some people argue a solution to the problem would be to reuse graves. This has already been introduced in the City of London. A change in the law would be needed for it to be carried out in Wales.

New methods are now being proposed, which it's claimed are more environmentally friendly. Promession would involve the freeze drying of human remains. Resomation would involve liquifying human remains in an alkaline solution. Neither are currently available in the UK but the companies behind the processes are hoping for a change in the law so that the new techniques can be introduced.

A promession machine in use Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Another popular trend is that of natural burial. These take place in fields and woodland and graves are marked with more simple locators instead of gravestones.

Stone grave locator in natural burial field Credit: ITV Cymru Wales