Keeping an eye on the village’s burial situation

St Mary's in Belford.
St Mary's in Belford.

Councillors in Belford want to ensure that there aren’t any unpleasant surprises when the parish church runs out of space in its graveyard.

At last Thursday’s meeting of Belford Parish Council, Rev John Beckwith, from St Mary’s Church, was invited along to discuss the issue.

Members heard that the church is now into its last row-but-one of plots, meaning there are probably about 15 left.

Rev Beckwith was unsure whether all of them would be double-depth, but he added that there may be some additional plots dotted around.

Coun Geoff O’Connell said that once St Mary’s was full, the village would need to consider a 50-year supply, which, based on around seven to 10 burials per year, would mean a two to three-acre site.

“Quite honestly, the parish council would not be in a position to do that,” he added.

Rev Beckwith said that when he first took on the role, he was told that it would be two years before it was full and it’s now six to seven years later. However, he did agree that about two years’ space was left now.

Expanding the churchyard has been explored, but is not viable at present.

The parochial church council (PCC) is due to undertake a survey of the graveyard and the information will be passed onto the parish council.

The PCC has to give the parish council official notice when the closure of the graveyard is approaching and then the parish council has three months to deal with the issue. Rev Beckwith said he has contacted the Home Office and was told the process takes about a year and that they should get back in touch when down to the last three or four plots.

Once notice is received, the parish council would contact the county council. Many cemeteries are owned or maintained by the county council, but some are managed by towns and parishes.