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Elstree cemetery has just one year of space left

Elstree’s Allum Lane cemetery has just one year of space left, the borough council has said.

Hertsmere Borough Council is responsible for burials at the cemetery. It also looks after graveyards closed to new burials at Mutton Lane in Potters Bar, St Botolph’s in Shenley and St James in Bushey.

A freedom of information request sent by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has revealed general burials could end at Allum Lane by the end of 2024, unless the authority can buy new space to expand the site.

“A lot of local authority cemeteries are full or reaching capacity,” a council spokesperson said.

“It’s not a statutory requirement to provide burial facilities.

“Local authorities struggle to predict demand, because it is, by nature, a difficult thing to predict demand for.”

Councillors agreed Hertsmere Borough Council should buy land to expand the cemetery in 2021, when a review found Allum Lane was expected to run out of space earlier in 2023.

Elstree cemetery has just one year of space left Harrow Online
Hertsmere Borough Council. Credit: Will Durrant/LDRS

The authority could use a compulsory purchase order to expand the Allum Lane site.

“Having cemeteries is an appropriate use of the green belt and Allum Lane Cemetery is in the green belt,” the spokesperson added.

“When we expand our cemetery space, there are some things to consider such as the ground quality, the water table, and it needs to be approved by the Environment Agency.

“Is it a place people can reasonably access?

“Is it a place where people can have a quiet reflection?

“There are religious groups which are significant locally which require burial, which is something we always keep in mind when planning our cemeteries, particularly grave orientation and consecrated land.”

Hertsmere Borough Council told the LDRS there are 3,564 burial plots at Allum Lane – and 3,424 of these are used or bought. This leaves 140 spaces available – including 57 baby plots and eight baby plots in the Muslim section.

Although general burials may run out by the end of 2024, there is a supply of graves for babies for approximately 28 years, for Muslims for 10 years, and for ashes 19 years.

It is not the only cemetery in Hertfordshire facing a shortage. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council is responsible for the “closed” cemetery at Hatfield Hyde and “open” burial ground at The Lawn. Its Lawn cemetery faces closure by early 2026 at current burial rates.

Brent London Borough Council is responsible for Carpenders Park Lawn Cemetery near Watford. A total 9,551 out of 10,138 graves are used, which means supply could run out in eight to 10 years’ time.

Bishop’s Stortford Town Council, which has approximately 13 years of space left, has taken its short supply to Parliament, asking lawmakers to let them extinguish burial rights 75 years after they are “exercised”.

The Law Commission is looking at a new “framework” for burials in England and Wales. Professor Nick Hopkins, family law commissioner, said: “Current laws are outdated, unclear, and do not protect the wishes of those who have passed away.

“Our review will consider the merits of a new framework that provides greater legal clarity, and is more responsive to the needs of modern society.”