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Burial on private land

Burials usually occur in cemeteries or churchyards; however, some individuals choose to be buried in private land, e.g., farmland, woodland or private gardens. The Natural Death Centre, a charity formed to support non formalised types of funerals, have issued “The Natural Death Handbook” which incorporates details on how to arrange such burials in accordance with the Registration of Burial Act 1864.

When considering a private land burial the following information should be noted:

  • If you own the land concerned, you must check the deeds to ensure there are no restrictions on what the property may be used for.
  • A certificate of disposal is issued by a Coroner or the Registrar of births, deaths and marriages when the death is registered, the detachable section needs to be completed and returned to the Registrar.
  • The Registrar of births, deaths and marriages must be notified of the place of burial. As records are only held by them concerning the private burial site for 5-6 years, a "Burial Register" will need to be created. This is a record kept with property deeds indicating, who is buried, where they were buried and when they were buried; as if the land is sold or building work enacted, then the police and whoever owns the property will need to know about the site. It is recommended that an amendment be added to the land registry so a permanent record is available for future purchasers.
  • Burials should be at least 10 metres from any field drain or ditch draining to a water course, 30 metres of any spring or standing or running water and at least 50 metres away from any well, borehole or spring that supplies water for any use.
  • The burial site must comply with Environment Agency guidelines as failure to comply with these guidelines can lead to the body being exhumed.
  • There is no minimum depth at which a body should be buried, although a minimum of 1 metre from the coffin top to the soil surface is recommended. The bottom of the burial cavity must be free of standing water when excavated.
  • If a memorial is planned for the person buried, planning permission may be required from the council’s planning department to have the memorial erected as any memorial is considered a building under national Planning law. In some circumstances, planning permission may not be required providing that no substantial memorial were erected, it is unlikely whether land where one person was laid to rest would be held to be burial ground, this might change if two or more were similarly interred.
  • Once remains have been buried, they may not be disturbed or removed without authorisation. There is no guarantee that future owners of the property would allow a burial to rest in peace and could apply for a Home Office license for exhumation. In addition, future owners may prevent access to relatives who wish to pay their respects at the burial site.
  • The value of the property may be affected by a burial within its grounds, as prospective buyers would not consider purchasing.
  • Social implications should be considered, as neighbours would no doubt be concerned about any burials taking place in close proximity to their homes.