Grave situation as space runs out at Lewes Cemetery

Lewes cemetory almost full SUS-140620-160340001
Lewes cemetory almost full SUS-140620-160340001

Lewes Cemetery is about to run out of space – and residents are likely to be buried outside the town in future.

Space for interments will run out in 18 months and ashes plots in two years.

The cemetery is completely landlocked without any potential for extension.

It means Lewesians who wish to be buried or have their ashes interred may have to use alternative sites such as Seaford or Newhaven.

Member of Lewes District Council’s Scrutiny Committee heard yesterday (Thursday) that as of May 13 this year Lewes Cemetery has an estimated 35 grave spaces and 56 dedicated ashes plots that are not currently purchased.

Actual burials/interments will continue for many years because of pre-purchased plots. A Deed of Grant is often purchased well in advance of use, not just when a burial is required.

Families from time to time may also purchase several adjoining grave spaces. This means that the purchase of a Deed of Grant is not necessarily an indication of the numbers of interments that are taking place and makes it difficult to calculate future demand.

It also means grave spaces may remain allocated but unused for many years.

Committee members heard that when Lewes Cemetery has run out of space there would still be a requirement to maintain it and keep it ‘open’ while burials are still taking place in pre-purchased plots.

The cemeteries at Seaford and Newhaven still have capacity for an estimated 10-15 years.

The provision of cemeteries by district councils is a statutory power, not a duty. Lewes District Council could decide not to provide additional cemetery land within the District once present space is exhausted. This would offer some financial savings but the ongoing cost of existing cemeteries would then not be offset by income.

During the period 2013/14, Lewes Cemetery generated £58,764 in income through burial fees, purchase of Deeds of Grant and memorial permits. There were 29 burials there and 22 interments of ashes.

Anyone can purchase a grave space. However, this does not confer ownership of the land. The purchaser is effectively acquiring an ‘Exclusive Right of Burial’.

The purchaser is referred to as ‘The Deed of Grant Holder’ and is the only person who can thereafter authorise the use of the grave space and any memorial. These grants are purchased for a period of 50 years for burial plots and 10 years for ashes interments.