Houghton Regis Town Council meet tonight to review various charges, including burial costs at their cemetery in Cemetery Road. Should the charges be left as they are, increased by the rate of inflation, or brought into line with charges made by bigger local authorities?
I've just done some research, and although Houghton Regis charges very fairly as compared to similar small towns in Central Bedfordshire, the cost of looking after graves over many years is never really met. Crematoriums are run at a profit, graves at a loss. Farmers are no longer giving away land as a favour for a cemetery, preferring to sell it to developers for new housing. The value of any land a town council has, has to be carefully weighed up. It won't last forever.
The Town Council are currently looking into the prospect of converting a recreation ground (WITH COVENANTS ON IT, ONE THAT RESTRICTS ITS USE TO "OPEN SPACE FOR RECREATIONAL USE") into a cemetery that might last them 40 years. Well, what happens after the 40 years are up? What playing field comes under scrutiny next?
The land use might be spun out a bit further by building mausoleums, and charging high fees for vaults (prices up to £37,000 at Bedford Borough Council), but in the meantime, more should be done to dissuade burials, and encourage cremations.
Sample fees (sourced Nov 2014) :
Exclusive Right of Burial (Adult) cost to authority residents 75 years except where stated):
£954 East Finchley (+50% for advanced reserve)
£893 Mill Hill (+50% for advanced reserve)
£860 Watford (50 years)
£236 Houghton Regis
£220 Edlesborough (50 years, includes interment)
£160 Biggleswade (100 years)
After the burial right, the cost of Interment in a grave:
£619 Bedford (with other options up to £37,447)
£552 East Finchley / Mill Hill
£110 Houghton Regis
Permit for headstone:
£84 East Finchley / Mill Hill
£43 Houghton Regis
* Footnote: since writing this, the committee agreed to increase the fees in Houghton Regis by 5% rather than the 3% in-line with inflation suggested by officers. Luton's fees are due to rise again in January 2015. For the record, when the covenants on Orchard Close came to light, this changed everything for me. I do not support Orchard Close being used as a cemetery.