Finding more burial space for Reading residents will be a “long and tricky road”, according to the leader of the borough’s council.

Plans to find more burial land in Reading were approved by Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Policy committee on Thursday (September 23), with just eight years of space left in the town for burying loved ones.

The council had expected to have capacity for a further three years than that when it voted to convert recreation space into 1,376 burial spots in 2015 but it has run out of space faster than predicted.

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Councillor Jason Brock, leader of RBC, added: “Given how difficult this is, in terms of resolving the issue, it’s good that we are starting early, but, even so, I think it is going to be a long and tricky road to find a solution.”

Having now narrowed down from eight possible solutions, RBC will investigate four options to find more burial land in Reading:

  • Exploring potential land options in the borough
  • Opening discussions with the Caversham Park developer about buying their land
  • Opening discussions with neighbouring local authorities about acquiring more land in partnership
  • Identifying land within up to a 10-mile radius of Reading to provide 40-plus years of burial space

Cllr Ruth McEwan, lead member for Corporate and Consumer Services, said: “We know there is significant demand for faith and cultural burials in the borough.

“The first stage is simply to keep our options open and commission further work to see what we can do in terms of extending our service beyond the life of the current cemetery.

“We are, of course, committed to delivering burials in the borough.”

Isabel Edgard Briancon, assistant director of corporate improvement and customer services, said the council is “keen to explore options that keep costs and distances manageable” for Reading residents.

While Conservative councillor Jane Stanford-Beale said using the Caversham Park land would be a “natural extension” and “very good match as a setting for a cemetery”.

As well as finding more space, the council is changing some policies, including banning side-by-side burials, which will help to increase capacity.

Why is the council running out cemetery space quicker than expected?

Henley Road Cemetery is the only land the council currently has that is suitable for burials, with two sections having space for new burial plots: Westfield and Mayfield.

The council says there is a reluctance by families to utilise double depth graves, which allow for a second burial, and this is reducing the lifespan of Westfield, where all graves are dug at double depth.

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Additionally, burial activity over the last three years and during the pandemic has been significantly higher than the council had predicted when making estimations in in 2015.

Although burials have been split between Mayfield and Westfield, the increase particularly impacted on Westfield due to the high number of Muslim burials.

The newly-revised projections for the lifespan of the two sites is five years for Westfield and three years for Mayfield.