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Cemetries

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 2nd May 2006.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright PPS (Ms Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department of Health

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) regulatory and (b) statutory quality guidelines local authorities are required to comply with in their management of cemeteries and burial grounds relating to (i) avoidance of land pollution from decontaminated land and (ii) flooding of ground.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Climate Change and Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The principal means of control to protect the water environment are the Environment Agency's powers and duties under the Water Resources Act 1991, the Environment Act 1995 and the Groundwater Regulations 1998. The Environment Agency's booklet Assessing the Groundwater Pollution Potential of Cemetery Development" gives advice to operators on assessing the risk to groundwater from existing and planned cemeteries. The booklet also addresses such factors as the soil nature and type, and the depth to the water table.

In the case of a new cemetery, or a change of use of an existing cemetery, planning permission would be required from the Local Planning Authority under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Planning and Compensation Act 1991. The Local Planning Authority would consult with the Environment Agency before giving permission and would use refusal refuse permission, or impose conditions in a Decision Notice, to control a cemetery development and ensure that human health and the environment are protected.

There are no statutory water quality guidelines relating to burial grounds. A site specific approach would apply based on any risks to human health or the environment at any particular location. Good practice requires that cemeteries are, where possible, located in well drained areas with a reasonable depth of unsaturated ground between the base of the grave and the water table so that flooding of the ground should not normally be an issue.

Where redevelopment is taking place on any land which may be affected by contamination due to the presence of substances in, on, or under the land, decontamination may be required. This should be carried out in line with the guidance in the publication Contaminated Land Report 11: Model procedures for the management of land contamination" (DEFRA and Environment Agency, 2004).

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