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My Parish Council it appears some 25 years ago purchased some land abutting to the existing closed church yard for the purposes of establishing a new Burial Ground. They effectively own and maintain said Burial Ground. Now it appears that to do this you need to become a burial authority?

The problem now arises as to what happens regarding the maintenance of the existing Closed Churchyard. Historic minutes show some conflict on this matter with the church being difficult and hard to get responses from. In an effort to sort this the PC led the establishment of a charity to oversee closed church yard monument maintenance and made it clear that any contributions to said charity would be voluntary. However, it appears more recently the PC seems to always end up paying and the Charity appears dormant. I have queried   a recent significant grant application noting that  LGA 1972 s 214 6 allows for optional contributions and s215 for total responsibility in that there appears to be no recorded historic agreement. It appears the PC ends up paying because no one else will. 

Legal opinion suggest a hierarchy of maintenance responsibility of

a) owner/family

b) church

c) local authority

Does anyone have an experience of dealing with Closed Churchyards and does being a Burial Authority imply any responsibility for all burial grounds?

asked by (1.8k points)
edited by

1 Answer

0 votes
A closed churchyard becomes the responsibility of the parish council, and the church has no further liability. The parish council can hand the responsibility on to the district council, but that is not an easy let out. The district council may not maintain the closed churchyard to the satisfaction of local people. In addition, district councils are increasingly willing to use their power to levy an additional rate on a parish that is incurring extra costs. A parish council is automatically a burial authority.
answered by (29.8k points)
I have found this  "Responsibility for maintenance of churchyards closed to further burials by Order in Council may be transferred by the parochial church council to the relevant local authority (Local Government Act 1972, s.215). If the parish or town council does not wish to accept that responsibility, notification will need to be given to the relevant district or metropolitan council within three months. If so, the district or metropolitan council must accept that responsibility.
It appears therefore that in our case it appears doubtful if a S215 notice has been issued at all
From your description it certainly sounds possible. Assuming that is so, the parish council has responsibility for the closed churchyard. As mentioned in the answer, this may not be any worse than passing it over to the district, and the parish keeps control of how the maintenance is to be carried out.
If the churchyard was never formally closed via the requisite order and responsibility never formally agreed/transferred to the Parish or District Council I would argue that it is still the Churches responsibility. Not Council Tax payers fault if they have not done their job properly
It does not appear on the DC's formal list of closed churchyards so more digging needed (to coin a phrase).
I have two churchyards in my parishes that the respective PCCs insist were closed many years ago, but they were not.  Closure is not determined by the PCC.  The process for closing churchyards is managed by the Ministry of Justice.  A phonecall to the MoJ Coroners and Burials Division on 020 3334 6390 will clarify whether or not your churchyard is legally closed.
Thanks everyone.  Having inherited two opposing views in this dispute I have believe it or not found evidence of an agreement made many years ago in which responsibility was formally transferred to the PC and the PCC agreed to make an annual contribution towards costs . This has apparently never happened and the amount owed is now just under £50k.  I would love to be a fly on the wall when that conversation is had. I suppose an argument can be put forward that contributions are not provided for in the legislation and if it is included is it subject to inflation ?
It sounds to me as though the churchyard isn't closed, but is simply subject to a local agreement.  If it is closed, and the parish council didn't immediately transfer the legal responsibility to the district council, then the parish council is legally responsibile for the maintenance and the PCC may choose whether or not they wish to make a contribution.
Two lots of minutes including the following from consecutive meetings
1)Mrs   xxx reported receipt of the order closing the Churchyard. It was agreed the clerk would meet with the vicar to discuss the details
2)The Chairman referred to a letter from the Secretary of the PCC requesting the Council take over the running of the Churchyard and subject thereto the Church Council would be paying £300 pa towards the specific upkeep of the churchyard
I will need to check with MOJ if the yard is formally closed. If it is well its for the PC and PCC to fight it out  but to me as a resident it seems conclusive .
The current procedure requires the parish council to be a party to the application, although I don't know whether that was always the case.

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