Committee discusses capacity pressure for Council burial grounds and excellent work of Caithness volunteers flagged up

The Highland Council is responsible for 268 burial grounds across the Highlands and a report discussed at today’s Communities and Place Committee highlighted that 33 of the sites have an estimated capacity of less than 6 years.

The report underlines some of the challenges with identifying and developing suitable land for extension to existing burial grounds. These include suitable land availability that meets geological and environmental requirements for cemeteries, the purchase and development costs and local planning considerations.

A new project has been established to address service risks relating to capacity issues and will be taking forward a detailed strategic review of the planning of the Council’s cemeteries for the next 20 years.

The Bereavement Services Project involves the council’s surveyors, design team and legal team and they will be engaging with communities to help identify suitable land, involve key stakeholders including SEPA and consider other options including the development of woodland burial grounds and the closure of cemeteries to new internments where extensions are not feasible. Priority will be given to extensions at sites with the most pressing capacity issues.

Following discussions, the Committee agreed that from next year an annual report will go to each Area Committee so members can monitor capacity at their local burial grounds and examine proposals for any extensions that come forward.

Members noted that a review into burial administration will be reported to the next meeting of the Redesign Board. They also noted that arrangements have been made to have an active inspection and repair regime in place for all memorials over a 5-year rolling programme.

At the start of the Committee Caithness Councillor Raymond Bremner gave a presentation to showcase the hard work by groups of volunteers to maintain local burial grounds with the assistance from the council and how this has had a very positive impact on communities. The East Caithness cemeteries to benefit from the efforts of volunteers include Wick, Keiss, Thrumster, Latheron and Canisby. Following the presentation discussions took place on how the council could support this volunteer driven initiative and encourage other communities across the Highlands to follow their example.

Chair Councillor Allan Henderson said: “We were all impressed with the presentation that highlighted the great collaborative community spirit there is in East Caithness for people to roll up their sleeves and take action. I congratulate everyone involved for their excellent work which I am sure they find rewarding. It is certainly something I would like to see rolled out to other communities and we will be looking into how we can provide the necessary support.”


19 Aug 2020