Private cemetery plots snapped up as businessman spots opportunity

The need for more burial plots is growing and putting endless pressure on local authorities. Lisa O'Brien reports:

Private cemetery plots snapped up as businessman spots opportunity

Pressures on councils and churches to meet demand for burial spaces has led to more private cemeteries springing up around the Midlands.

The growing need for burial plots led to a private cemetery opening in Burntwood last month, while another is due to open next summer in Lichfield with a planning application now lodged to transform a site in Walsall.

Boss of Springhill Cemetery Group, Aamer Waheed, is behind the schemes and says he will keep snapping up land to turn into cemeteries where there is a shortage in the future.

The father of four, of Reedswood Lane, Walsall, said he first realised there was a lack of burial space in 2006, two years after he had bought land off Walsall Road in Lichfield.

The site is now being transformed into a 30,000 plot cemetery, with hope that burials can start by June next year.

The 51-year-old said: "I was looking to build something like a golf course or sports facility there.

"When I spoke to the local authority and realised there was a shortage of burial space in the area I decided to try and make it into a cemetery."

Mr Waheed, who recently submitted a planning application to Walsall Council to create a new 8,000 plot cemetery in Aldridge Road, Walsall, also opened a new private cemetery with 6,000 plots off the A5195 Burntwood Bypass in Burntwood last month.

Walsall Burial Park serves Walsall, Cannock and Lichfield and many of the plots had been snapped up before it even opened.

Kamran Saleem, general manager for Springhill Cemetery Group, said the firm had seen a large uptake from the Muslim community and a mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham, had bought 1,200 plots. He said some people preferred to reserve a section so families could be buried together, and added that St Anne's Church, Chasetown, had also reserved cremation and burial sections due to being full to capacity.

Spokesman for the Lichfield Diocese Simon Jones said burial plots were very sought after in some areas, particularly around older churches with limited space. He said: "Church rules mean that church graveyards are only open to those who live in the parish, are members of the church or very closely related to someone who is.

"There can be a lot of anxiety among people who want to be certain of where they will be laid to rest.

"Interestingly, fees for church burials are often lower than for public cemeteries, though people often don't realise that they are paying for the burial, not the plot of land.

"It is hard to imagine a private cemetery being a cheaper option. We are aware that different rules are made for different cemeteries however and would advise people to check the length of the lease in a plot."

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