BURIAL space at Worthing’s largest cemetery will be exhausted in 12 months – but with increasing numbers turning to cremations how vital is a planned extension?
Worthing Borough Council plans to spend £300,000 extending Durrington Cemetery by March 2016, a move it hopes will provide burial space for at least another 35 years.
I think a lot of people feel burial grounds are a waste of space and land and cremation is more hygienic. I can go six months without a burial.Marian Down, funeral director
But 90 per cent of the town’s departed residents currently choose cremation over burial – way above the national average of 77 per cent.
Cabinet member for the environment and honorary president of the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA) Clive Roberts said the changing nature of religion may have accounted towards the shift.
“The move away from burials towards cremations may be influenced by the changing nature of religion in the UK and abroad – very few religious groups now actively oppose cremation. This was very different at the end of the 19th century,” he said.
“Additionally, information and education around the cremation process is now far better than it’s ever been, presenting cremation as a legitimate choice when deciding on funeral arrangements.
“Space is also a consideration. The UK is running out of grave space and I think this may figure in many people’s minds when they consider their final arrangements.”
According to latest figures from the FBCA, 2,922 people were cremated in Worthing last year, compared to 132 burials. Of these 132, only 79 were new graves, with the rest re-opened plots.
Worthing Crematorium welcomes families from across the country, so the cremation figure does not solely relate to Worthing residents.
Nationally, the percentage of cremations has risen from 0.1 per cent of all deaths in 1888, to 77 per cent in England and Wales in 2013.
Cremations took over burials in 1967, when just over half of those who died were cremated.
Funeral director Marian Down said cremations had always been more popular in her 30 years but the trend had become ‘radically’ so in recent years.
She said: “There is definitely a trend towards cremation and radically so. People who are keen on burial are now much more interested in woodland burials.
“I think a lot of people feel burial grounds are a waste of space and land and cremation is more hygienic. I can go six months without a burial.”
Mrs Down added whatever a family’s decision, they must do what is right for them and make a choice they will happily live with.
The Durrington Cemetery changes were among several budgetary items discussed at the Joint Strategic Committee meeting on Tuesday night.
A council spokesman said: “We are currently in the design stage with Durrington cemetery, so don’t have any plans which we can share at the moment.
“There are many factors which need to be considered before making any final decisions but we are anticipating that any extension should provide at least 35 years of burial capacity.”
Mr Roberts said the council had worked to create a quiet and tranquil setting at the crematorium to provide an ‘equal’ to the more traditional service.
He said: “I believe that services at a crematorium are seen as the equal to a more traditional graveside service. Our Worthing Crematorium and memorial gardens offer a quiet, tranquil and restful place to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away.
“Although mourners may not gather around a grave, the chapel allows them to be together in the way that they would choose prior to the cremation and scattering of ashes in a special location.”
Mr Roberts was installed as the 91st president of the FBCA in September. He has sat on the executive committee for four years.