Memorandum by Alan Rice, Community Initiative
Partnerships (CEM 75)
The following submissions are made, in the main,
to a local context, ie Hounslow, but additionally to a more broad
1. The significance of Cemeteries, Historically,
Environmentally and Culturally for local communities.
1.1 Historicallythe submission, it
is felt, has to be considered in two ways, firstly with regards
the constituted purpose of cemeteries and secondly with relation
to the care and preservation of cemeteries (local heritage).
1.2 "Constituted purpose", in
a multi-cultural society where, and noticeably so, the desired
means of disposal of the dead is inclined towards burial "reversing"
to some extent, the cremation trend, the importance and significance
therefore of cemeteries in that regard, now as in times past cannot
be stressed too strongly.
1.3 Hounslow has a broad and diverse ethnic
quality which, although very different from the communities of
the past has a discernible consistency.
1.4 From the families of the old home nations,
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland
and our near European neighbours, all have found support and understanding
from the present governing authority and/or past administrations
with regards disposal of the dead.
1.5 Burial, or indeed cremation, of the
dead is today carried out with greater respect to the requirements
of the divers cultures that exist in Hounslow. There is more appreciation
of both the religious requirements and personal desires, which
is actively demonstrated, where physically possible, via the opportunity
to participate fully and in the manner appropriate in the act
of disposal of a loved one.
1.6 However there are areas where personal
desires and/or religious requirements are still not met, eg washing
facilities as in "ghusl" (muslim funeral practice).
1.7 "Preservation of cemeteries",
apart from the act of disposal (funeral) there are other areas
where public/local participation is demonstrated. There are a
growing number of "friends" who take particular interest
in the maintenance and care of cemeteries and the commemoration
therein. Additionally there are genealogists and/or local historians
who glean much from reading headstones and although time has eclipsed
the more tangible presence of long departed members of the community
the importance of them and this work or study ensures that their
importance is no less diminished.
2. Environmentally, the settings (cemeteries)
where these individuals lie are, or can be, places of great beauty
and interest, an oasis, making them a welcome relief from the
busy world outside. To reinforce the case, if it is to be of issue,
these places of beauty, in addition to parks and open spaces are
viewed as supplementary lungs of our towns and cities, particularly
with the advance of the built environment.
2.1 Local Authorities have suffered severe
funding cuts or spending restraints in recent years resulting
in deterioration of standards in parks cemeteries. This should
2.2 Funding from other sources, whether
it be in the form of advertising or Public Private Partnerships,
is in most cases not possible given the unique purpose of these
3. Culturalwhereas the manner of
disposal of the dead varies greatly from community to community
the importance of the bereavement process cannot be stressed too
strongly, whatever the culture. Bereavement spans the broad spectrum
of the populace death is part of life and not a subject to evade.
It is recognised that the bereaved need periods of quiet reflection
and that the support agencies that exist in this regard help greatly.
3.1 In addition to these agencies local
authorities have an important role to play not just in the presentation
of the facility (conducive to the grief process) but also in the
training and briefing their staff receive with regards respect
for the recently bereaved.
4.1 Under present legislation every authority
that has responsibility for cemeteries is obligated to maintain
them in good and reasonable condition (Section 214 Local Government
Act 1972 & Cemeteries Order 1977).
4.2 There are however areas that although
covered by legislation are neglected through lack of funds. Much
could be done to secure the continuing use of cemeteries old and
new be it to its constituted purpose via re-use of old graves
or to a more pastoral usetransforming the grounds and re-designating
them Memorial Parks.
4.3 The obvious large, old and ex private
cemeteries, where income has ceased and whose care and maintenance
are now vested under local authorities, receive considerable criticism
with regard to neglect of grounds from the public.
4.4 Public cemeteries, periodically, receive
similar criticism and it should be recognised that most can be
avoided with the employment of personnel with experience, particularly
management. Some authorities fail to recognise or appreciate the
need for suitable staff and the training requirements.
4.5 Cemeteries sections (management and
provision) can be in inappropriate divisions or sections of large
local authority departments where funding considerations tends
to lean toward the purpose of the mother establishment.
5. Long-term planning, new cemeteriesthe
obvious problem is land, whether in the outer London boroughs
or within the M25 enclosure area. Cemeteries should be established
near to the area they serve. Anywhere else could be construed
as being tantamount to an admission of insensitivity.
5.1 Much is said, at present, with regards
Brownfield sites. Sites such as these have generally only been
recognised for inner city housing and industrial use (see 5.3).
5.2 Adverting (see 1.2) to reference to
burial/cremation trends made earlier where it was noted that evidence
exists as to a reversal, although slight, which is somewhere in
the region of 2 per cent.
5.3 Realistically any new cemetery should
consist of at least 50 acres of ground, which equates to about
40,000 graves or 130 years of use. It should be noted that the
above figures are to a local consideration (Hounslow).
6. In summary, it is felt that examination
of the present methods of funding, in all aspects of this submission
is essential, as is the exploration of provision of alternative
6.1 Without question funding is, and will
always be necessary not just to extend the life of established
cemeteries but also the provision of new.
6.2 It will also be required to upgrade
the general maintenance of old cemeteries in order to make them
more presentable which in turn may prevent, or preclude, the extensive
widespread mindless vandalism.
6.3 Statutory Measures regarding conversion
to lawn type areas (headstone only) particularly of the older
cemeteries is an option that must be pursued. It will have a dual
effect, ie reducing maintenance costs and provide a setting for
continued public use, "transforming old or older cemeteries
into memorial parks" for the greater benefit of all and thereby
visually enhancing eligibility for funding.