Council Working to Help Identify Possible Future Burial Sites for Reading
ONGOING efforts to identify new burial space in Reading are continuing with the Council working to narrow down possible options for future provision.
In common with many urban towns or cities, there is an acute shortage of burial space in Reading. Current estimates are that Reading will run out of space for new graves within seven years and unless alternatives are found, by 2029 burials will no longer be able to take place in the borough.
Several options are currently being explored by the Council. These include maximising the existing space at Henley Road Cemetery by setting aside verges and existing open space. This would extend provision by only three years and would not be a long-term solution. Other options include looking for opportunities to establish a new cemetery either inside or just outside Reading, and the possibility of working with neighbouring authorities to identify land.
The Council also intends to investigate the possibility of returning Henley Road allotments to their original intended use as cemetery land. To either rule the Council-owned site out or include it as a future option, it first needs to determine whether the plot of land remains suitable for burials.
Ground testing in the form of a detailed groundwater assessment will take place at the site over the coming weeks. This will involve creating six to eight small boreholes which will be regularly inspected to establish groundwater levels. Together with its contractor, the Council will ensure none are located on any active allotment plot. Works are expected to begin next month (September 2023) and could take up to 12 months to complete.
The Council has spoken to Henley Road allotment representatives and last week wrote to all allotment holders and the gardeners association who occupy two trading sheds on the site.
Information posters have also been placed on site about the exploratory drilling.
Liz Terry, the Council’s Lead Councillor for Corporate Services and Resources, said:
“The acute shortage of burial space in Reading is mirrored in many other towns. While there is no statutory provision for local councils to provide burials in their borough, it is a service we feel strongly should continue to be offered to residents in Reading, which means we are progressing with work to narrow down possible options.
“One of those options is to return the Council land at Henley Road allotment to burial ground, as it was originally intended to be. This requires some detailed ground investigations, the results of which will allow the Council to include it as an option for future consideration, or to rule it out.
“We thank all allotment holders for their patience while these exploratory works take place, which should not affect the day-to-day use of plots on the site. Council officers have a good working relationship with allotment representatives, and we are committed to keeping them informed at every step of the process.
“I would also emphasise that we are still at an early stage of narrowing down options, which is what the exploratory groundworks are about.”
Notes to editors
This lack of future burial provision in Reading was initially reported to a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee in September 2021. https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/g4593/Public%20reports%20pack%2023rd-Sep-2021%2018.30%20Policy%20Committee.pdf?T=10