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Flintshire County Council to look at columbarium services

FLINTSHIRE Council is to explore an environmentally friendly storage solution for the deceased as it faces an increasing lack of burial space across the county.

The authority’s Climate Change committee has backed a motion from Hawarden and Mancot Cllr Sam Swash (Lab) to look at the financial and environmental benefits of offering columbarium services in Flintshire cemeteries.

Cllr Sam Swash

A columbarium is an above ground piece of funerary architecture which is made up of individual chambers which house cremated remains.

Cllr Swash told members that the county is likely to run out of burial space one day and that by offering columbarium, could help solve problems caused by a lack of space for traditional burials.

He added that it could reduce the need to purchase and use more land for cemetery space, which has a significantly detrimental impact on the environment.

“The issue of dealing with human remains really is a ticking timebomb”, Cllr Swash said.

“Traditional burials are an incredibly inefficient way of storing human remains. Built-up urban communities have been feeling this particular problem for quite a long time but it’s also beginning to affect places like Flintshire now.

“The motion outlines various benefits of columbaria at Flintshire (Council) managed cemeteries, some of which are economic as well as environmental.

“The biggest of those (environmental benefits) is offering columbaria in terms of land use. In Flintshire, it’s becoming an increasingly critical issue due to the lack of burial space remaining at some of our popular local cemeteries such as the cemetery in my own ward of Hawarden and Mancot.

“The burial of human remains is carbon intensive but it also takes up vast swathes of green space which could potentially be better utilised. A not insignificant amount of land is unsuitable for human burial such as land susceptible to flooding.

“Columbaria as an above ground piece of architecture takes up less space and are also much more versatile in terms of the land on which they can be built.

“Land which is used for human burial is almost impossible to be re-used for other purposes even in the long-term.”

Cllr Swash added that few people were interested in building on or developing land where human remains are buried.

Maintenance costs of cemeteries are high and they can fall into disrepair unless kept by volunteers.

According to Cllr Swash, columbaria is offered in other places such as Northwich in Cheshire, and has proved popular with residents and the council there.

Argoed and New Brighton Cllr Mared Eastwood (Lib Dem) suggested more information was needed as there was no council officer report provided with the motion to break down the costs involved, and questioned whether there is any demand for columbarium services in Flintshire.

The council’s climate change co-ordinator Alex Ellis told the meeting that the authority’s bereavement team monitor space and capacity to meet demand.

She said that Buckley and Hawarden cemeteries have four years of life left, and that Bagillt has 16 years remaining.

In Flintshire 70 per cent of people opt for burial, and just 30 per cent for cremation.

The committee voted to support the motion to recommend to the cabinet and the environment scrutiny committee that Flintshire Council offer columbarium as an option for residents as part of its suite of bereavement and burial services.