Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Keynsham Town Council (CEM 20)

  Keynsham Cemetery has been owned and managed by Keynsham Town Council since 1996. The Cemetery was transferred from the former Wansdyke District Council that was abolished during the reorganisation of Avon in that year.

  The Cemetery itself is located on the edge of town on the site of a large Roman Villa, reputed to be the second largest discovered in the United Kingdom. Various archaeological studies have been made of the site along with nationally important discoveries. The Victorian Chapel is built directly on the villa which provides the foundations.

  The Cemetery itself has been in constant use since the late Victorian era as a municipal burial site.

  At the time of the transfer, the Victorian Chapel was in a very poor state and in danger of collapse, while the site itself was 95 per cent full, with only two to three years of burials. The Town Council made a substantial investment into the Chapel, both on exterior repairs and internal refurbishment. This was successfully completed and the Chapel was considered worthy of listing in the current list of buildings of historic interest. A new extension was also opened following an archaeological survey and planning permission, to provide an additional 500 grave spaces, estimated to list up to 25 years at the current rate of burials in new graves. The full cost of this was borne by the Town Council.

  In the longer term, adjacent sites are within the flood plain and would not be suitable for burials. Therefore, the Council will have to consider either:

    (i)  A new site

    (ii)  Reusing the parts of the existing site.

  The Council has not yet taken a view on how best to proceed. The existing Cemetery is available for people of all faiths and of no faith, primarily for local people, though people from outside the Community are also able to purchase plots at a premium of 100 per cent of the residents rate. This policy will be kept under review and may be amended should other nearby graveyards become full, increasing demands on Keynsham.

  The Cemetery is kept in good order and memorials are regularly tested for safety by use of a Topple Tester. The Town Council accepts full liability for all costs associated with the management and maintenance of the site. The Cemetery is funded partly by income and partly by use of the precept. The proportion of funding, excluding capital costs, is approximately 40 per cent : 60 per cent respectively. It is noted that a principal authority running a similar service qualifies for government assistance via the RSG, while the precept is a 100 per cent tax on local residents. A particular problem is the ongoing maintenance costs for the older parts of the cemetery. Tasks include, tree surgery, hedge trimming, footpaths maintenance, grass cutting and strimming. The geography of the site does not allow for it to be "closed". No new income can be generated from these sites under existing rules but the costs to the local taxpayer continues.

  The Council is committed to the long term provision of a local Cemetery. However, should further capital works be required, further sources of income would be appreciated, rather than a reliance on the precept or a loan, the cost of which falls on local people. It is the view of the Council that the National Lottery would not be an appropriate source of funding for an essential council service. The DETR should consider other funding sources, including direct grants to local councils on the submission of approved plans for development.

December 2000

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