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Home burials

Are home burials legal, who you should contact, will you need planning permission, what to do if you are selling your house and information about any physical constraints. 

Are home burials legal?

Yes, providing you have followed all the legal procedures for registering the death, a person can be buried at home or on private land. There are other things that you should consider however, such as what happens if the property is sold, and making sure the location and ground conditions are suitable.

Who should I contact if I am considering a home burial?

It is a good idea to seek advice from our environmental control team if you are considering a home burial, as there may be other precautions and environmental issues to consider.  For example if the person has died from an infectious disease, or if the ground conditions are unsuitable  or a high water table. You will still need to contact the registrar and follow the usual death registration process.

You can contact us for further information:

Tel: (01482) 396301

You may also wish to speak to the Environment Agency to see if the property is in a sensitive environmental area, or is prone to flooding. Contact details and further information is available on the Environment Agency website.

Do I need planning permission for a home burial?

You do not need planning permission for a home burial for a single grave or even a small number of graves, as long as there is no material "change of use". Planning permission may be required if large monuments are erected.

What if I intend on selling my house at some point in the future, after a home burial?

If you do not intend to stay in your house for more than a few years, then burying a relative's remains in the back garden is probably not appropriate for a number of reasons:

  • you may experience problems when you come to sell a house with a grave in the grounds

  • if you do sell the house you will not have right of access to the grave

  • if you wish to take the body with you, you will need to obtain an exhumation licence from the Home Office, and it could prove difficult to exhume the remains if they have been in the ground for some time

  • the new owners of the property may not wish for the body to remain on the site and could apply for an exhumation licence to have the body removed, this would not require your permission and you may not even be consulted on the matter

  • as the land may be developed at a later date, it is recommended that an 'informative' be added to the land register and to the deeds of the property, so that a permanent record of the burial ground is made for future purchasers.

Are there any physical constraints that I need to consider when planning a home burial?

The burial plot should be away from the house and away from services such as drainage, cables and gas supplies. This is especially important if any extensions or repairs are carried out in the future, to avoid disturbing the remains.  

The burial plot should be deep enough to prevent foraging animals from disturbing the body, and should have at least one metre of subsoil below its base and at least one metre of soil above the coffin.  The grave should not contain any standing water when it is first dug and should not be dug in very sandy soil. This should reduce the likelihood of the walls of the grave caving in when excavating the ground.  

Further advice on groundwater pollution and where to position burial plots in sensitive areas is available on the GOV.UK - Cemeteries and burials website.

The Environment Agency have intervention powers if there is a risk of pollution to groundwater or a nearby watercourse, so it is worth checking with them beforehand. Find contact details on the Environment Agency website.