Law and religion round-up – 29th October

Reuse of graves

The House of Commons Library has published a briefing paper on the reuse of graves as a means of addressing the problem of the shortage of available space for burial.

It considers the current legislation surrounding burial from s.25 Burial Act 1857, the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 and rights of reclamation, a consultation launched by the Government in 2004 which included the reuse of graves, the current Law Commission project on Burial, Cremation, and New Funerary Methods which began in December 2022, and the consultation on burial by the Scottish Government which resulted in the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016. The Scottish Government is currently conducting a consultation on a wide range of burial matters including resomation, which will close on 17 November.

This paper was published in reference to the current Bishop’s Stortford Cemetery Bill, which would confer powers upon Bishop’s Stortford Town Council to extinguish rights of burial and disturb human remains in Bishop Stortford’s New Cemetery and Old Cemetery for the purpose of increasing the space for interments.

Protecting groundwater from human burials

An apparent omission from the Commons Library briefing paper is a reference to the Environment Agency Guidance, Protecting groundwater from human burials, updated 2 October 2023, and the updating and review of the EA position statements due to changes to The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 which came into effect in October 2023.

The position papers distinguish between “existing cemeteries”, most of which do not need to apply for an environmental permit to operate, and “new cemeteries” which do, and are defined as either:

  • a cemetery development requiring planning permission under section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which was granted on or after 2 October 2023; or
  • an extension to a cemetery requiring planning permission under section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which was granted on or after 2 October 2023.

The granting of planning permission for Bishop Stortford’s New Cemetery and Old Cemetery is therefore an important factor in their development. 

A thatched roof in Piccadilly?

Extensive works to the inside and the outside of St James’s Piccadilly were proposed, but the only item in contention was the proposed erection of a new thatched pavilion building in the south-west corner of the churchyard, adjacent to Jermyn Street: see Re St James Piccadilly [2023] ECC Lon 3. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings objected on the grounds that thatch would be an incongruous material to use in an urban environment; it would be a fire risk and thatching material might be difficult to source now or for replacement in the future. However, given that the Planning Authority was satisfied that the single-storey new building would not have any deleterious effect on the churchyard and the church, the Chancellor saw no reason for refusing to grant a faculty. 

Ironically, in contrast to this return to traditional roofing materials, “the spire of the church, being made of fibreglass and erected during restoration works in the 1950s, is now in need of attention”.

Lyndwood Lecture 2023

The Lyndwood Lecture 2023, “Sustaining the Church in the 21st Century”, will be delivered by Dame Caroline Spelman at 18.15 on 15 November at St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside. Admission by ticket: booking details here.

Bishops in the House of Lords

In the 2022/23 parliamentary session, the Lords Spiritual were involved in the scrutiny of 22 of the 67 Bills that became Acts of Parliament. Plus a further ten Bills that did not become Acts.


Data from Richard Chapman

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