What is the difference between a landfill site and a cemetery? - (Beyond the obvious...)

Wise old mineral planning guru: “Gaining planning permission for a new quarry or landfill site is the hardest thing you can do in this industry…”– and I wholeheartedly agreed, right up to the point we made a planning application on a former quarry and (part) landfill site for a cemetery.

The level of public outrage at the principle of a cemetery (not its design, layout, environmental impact, etc…) was phenomenal. Whilst our industry works tirelessly to ‘make the link’ between minerals and their end use, this experience was a brutal example of what other ‘links’ remain absent in the public psyche.

This article seeks to stress how we, as minerals & waste planners, geologists, hydrogeologists…, hold a skill-set that is becoming increasingly crucial in the provision of an adequate number of burial plots.

Cemeteries have, historically, been under the remit of Local Planning Authorities but it is widely acknowledged by Bereavement Service teams across the U.K that the provision of burial plots is now critically low.  At present, there is no formal Government assessment of burial spaces, but a 2013 survey by the BBC found:

“…a quarter of 358 local authorities…said they would have no more room for burials within a decade.”


“Almost half of England's cemeteries could run out of space within the next 20 years”

The bulk of cemetery development planning is in the sub-surface sciences. Once the principle of need has been established, which rarely takes much deliberation, matters quickly move on to geological investigation and hydrogeological impact assessment (effectively leachate production…sorry).

Uncomfortable Sentence Warning: - The science of planning for cemeteries is nigh on identical to planning for landfill. As humans we have a quantifiable impact upon the environment once we are buried and that impact is scrutinised by the LPA and Environment Agency when a planning application is made for a new cemetery.

Our team has been readily able to quantify, explain and mitigate against this impact because it is something we had been doing day-in-day-out; simply with our minerals & waste planning 'hat' on.

Of course, there are emotional aspects to cemetery planning that aren’t encountered in minerals & waste planning and there are many delicate conversations to be had during the process, but it remains irrefutable that our skills as an industry will be called in to action sooner rather than later…

If you know of, or, want to discuss a potential cemetery location, don’t hesitate to contact MPG for a no obligation discussion: headoffice@mpgyorks.co.uk

Chris Heffernan - MPG Director

Mark Smedley