Covid-19: EA extends relaxed rules over graveyards

The Environment Agency (EA) has extended guidance which allows operators and councils to expand or develop new graveyards during the Covid-19 pandemic without applying for an environmental permit.

FIrst introduced in May last year, the guidance states that large numbers of burials taking place over a short period of time and the cumulative effects of many burials over a longer period could cause groundwater pollution. 

The EA urgese developers to, where possible, avoid areas that are high risk to the environment, such as water source protection zones 1 where groundwater is used for public drinking water and where there are wells, boreholes and springs. It also advises against development or near land drains or watercourses, or on land liable to flooding.

The guidance, which was due to lapse on 1 April, has been extended until 1 October 2021. This is a third extension, after the EA already extended the guidance from last October.

If a new or expanded cemetery is located in a low risk groundwater area, operators will not need to apply for an environmental permit once the pandemic has ended, the guidance says. But it adds that those in high risk areas will be required to do so retrospectively and will need to show how it has mitigated the risk through activities such as monitoring or using drainage controls. 

Those planning to develop a graveyard in a high risk area can approach the agency for groundwater risk assessment, and while it advises against such developments, some may go ahead provided the operator complies with site specific requirements, the agency says.

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