A field on the edge of York could be turned into an eco-friendly burial site for local people, if a new plan is approved.
Osbaldwick and Murton Parish Councils want to convert just over nine acres of land off Murton Way into a minimalist green graveyard, although neither council owns the land and the plan has generated controversy.
Under the proposals, most of the field would be turned into a wild meadow, with hedgerows also added and a small orchard so people could be buried beside a tree.
But there would be no headstones, no grave markings or signs, and no parking for mourners, thus creating minimal environmental impact.
Under green funeral principles, sites should be “not visually definable as a burial ground”, and coffins or shrouds should be made locally from natural materials.
Osbaldwick Parish Council has submitted a planning application to City of York Council, prompted by an impending lack of burial space nearby.
It says the churchyard of St Thomas’s Church in Osbaldwick has been closed for many years, and the one at St James’s Church in Murton is likely to run out of space in three years.
‘Need to buy the land’
Planning documents says: “This application for a green burial area seeks to address this deficiency in the most environmentally friendly manner with a site suitable for use by residents of both parishes and within close proximity of St Thomas’s Church in Osbaldwick.”
The statement says the parish councils are unaware of alternative plans to provide burial space, but also notes that for the plan to go ahead, they would need to buy the land.
York solicitors Cowling, Swift & Kitchin have written to the city council objecting on behalf of the trustees of the Jewitt Trust, who it says owns land north of Murton Way.
The firm said its clients were “extremely concerned” by the manner in which the application had progressed without consultation, and said the parish council had provided only the bare minimum information and had acted discourteously.
It said it had not yet been able to identify the site from the information it had been sent, but considered that it may be in an area subject to a grazing agreement or an option for proposed residential development.
‘In the public interest’
The parish council’s statement said the land in question was part of a larger area held in a family trust, but said “indication has been given that one of the owners is willing to sell his share to the two Parish Councils.”
The statement said the purchase and maintenance of the site would be a significant financial and time commitment.
It said any purchase would be funded through a 50-year loan from the Public Works Loan Board, repaid through parish precepts and burial fees, and ownership after any purchase would be jointly between the parish councils of Osbaldwick and Murton.
The statement said: “It is considered that the cost of this purchase is entirely in the overriding public interest, given the need for such facility for the parishioners of both Osbaldwick and Murton.”
The planning application can be seen in full here.