The Executive Director of Neighbourhoods and Communities submitted a report that sought views of the options available that would ensure local residents had the choice of burial to meet their own personal and religious beliefs. The available burial space in the towns existing cemeteries amounted to between 10 to 12 years. This proposal would have increased the land resource by an additional 38 years approximately.
Local Authorities had a legal duty to ensure satisfactory provision was made for the disposal of the dead and had a regard for the religious beliefs of the dead. There was no specific duty for a Local Authority to provide a cemetery, although in practice a Local Authority must ensure that adequate burial space was available.
Middlesbrough Council operated Teesside Crematorium and Linthorpe Cemetery, Acklam Cemetery, Thorntree RC Cemetery, Thorntree Protestant (Main) Cemetery and the combined North Ormesby / St Josephs Cemeteries. The towns churchyards were full and there were no private cemeteries. Indeed across the UK, private cemeteries were rare.
In Middlesbrough, each year there were approximately 3,600 cremations (1,400 cremations for Middlesbrough residents) and approximately 380 burials which required 220 grave plots. Over the past decade, the trend was fairly constant.
Middlesbrough had approximately 12 years of burial space remaining in existing cemeteries, which was outlined in further detail within the report.
The multi agency Bereavement Services Forum included representatives from the clergy, faith groups and funeral directors. In 2008, the Forum considered a national consultation document on the future of burial provision in the UK. They had a view that local authorities should not disturb skeletal remains to re-use graves. The Forum took the view that Middlesbrough Council should make future provision for burial space for local residents.
Only Acklam Cemetery and Thorntree RC Cemetery had scope for land extensions. The map, which was attached as an Appendix to the report indicated that a 10.76 acre extension was possible to the east of Acklam Cemetery and up to a 2.89 acre extension was possible to north of Thorntree RC Cemetery.
During the meeting Jeff Duffield updated the Chair that Acklam Comunity Council had commented on the proposals and that they supported the (10.76 Acres) Cemetery extention, subject to it being extended sensitively with attractive settings and trees.
The report outlined that there were four options available:
Option 1 - Make no provision for additional burial space in Middlesbrough, which would have had an adverse effect on faith groups that required burial and local residents that preferred burial.
Option 2 - To have ignificantly increased the charges for burial plots which would have encouraged more people to opt for a burial outside their hometown. A strategy that would inevitably have been challenged.
Option 3 - To have made future provision to extend Acklam Cemetery by 10.76 acres and Thorntree RC Cemetery by 1.4 acres which would have provided an additional 38 years of burial space approximately. This was the most economic option which ensured continued burial space for the next 50 years, which was to extend the boundaries of Acklam Cemetery and Thorntree RC Cemetery. It was anticipated that extended boundary fences would not be required for 8 years.
Option 4 - To have Identifed provision for a new cemetery in Middlesbrough. The cost of this had not been calculated but would have included the provision of an entire road, drainage system, path and boundary infrastructure. The costs would have been much higher than Option 3.
That provision was made to extend Acklam Cemetery on the eastern (rear) boundary by 10.76 acres by designating land for that purpose.
That provision was made to extend Thorntree RC Cemetery on the northern boundary by 1.4 acres by designating land for that purpose.
The decision was supported by the following reason:
The recommendation should ensure that adequate provision is made for burial land for the next 50 years.