Entrepreneurs Acquire UK Cemetery as Lack of Burial Space Intensifies

Two prominent business people from the West Midlands have become the new owners of a Staffordshire cemetery in order to raise awareness of the spiralling cost of burials in the UK which, they claim, is a stealth tax on dying.

A pledge to help local residents avoid continually rising funeral costs by enabling them to plan ahead has been made by the new owners of Chase & District Memorial Park in Burntwood, Staffordshire

Founded by two of the region’s most prominent entrepreneurs, business partners John Connell and Surekha Chouhan, Aspire Memoria bought the Memorial Park for an undisclosed sum from previous owner, Springhill Cemetery Group. It aims to raise awareness of the continually inflating cost of burial in the West Midlands and provide an alternative to local authority owned graveyards, which are running out of space.

"Planning ahead for a burial avoids exorbitant costs in the future, which would have to be met by the deceased's estate or family members. There has been virtually no choice for families but fast diminishing burial space means the private sector must now provide the land that's going to be needed in future."

John Connell, Director, Aspire Memoria Ltd

According to Aspire Memoria’s directors, private cemeteries are a necessity because local authorities do not have capacity to increase burial space, so prices for remaining vacant plots are rising at up to 10 times the rate of inflation, per year. At Streetly cemetery, for example, run by Walsall Council, it costs almost £3,000 to be interred.

“An ageing population has fuelled an explosion in the funeral plan industry,” said Surekha Chouhan, Co-Director of Aspire Memoria, who won the 2015 English Asian Business Awards presented by Lloyds Banking Group, in recognition of her business approach and achievements.

“People are often unaware that the cost of a burial plot is generally not included in these plans, which is usually the largest proportion of the funeral fees. These have been going up every year since 1975 but with no Government mandated cap in sight, it’s effectively a stealth tax on dying,” she continued.

Whilst cremation is still more popular than burial (70:30 ratio), it’s forbidden for people of Muslim faith. Kamran Saleem, Chase and District’s Site Manager, said:

“Islamic law decrees that Muslims must be buried as soon as possible after death. Not only is cremation not an option for them, it’s also significantly less environmentally friendly as it’s energy intensive and responsible for high C02 emissions. Fifteen per cent of all the UK’s mercury emissions are due to the burning of dental fillings.”

Commented John Connell, Co-Director of Aspire Memoria:

“Planning ahead avoids exorbitant costs in the future, which would have to be met by the deceased’s estate or family members. There has been virtually no choice for families but fast diminishing space means the private sector must now provide land that’s going to be needed.

“Some local authorities charge premiums for non-residents but at Chase & District Memorial Park, we have no such restrictions. As well as a universal cost structure, it is a multi-faith site with respectful, dedicated sections for all denominations.”

Chase & District Memorial Park offers a final resting place for up to 6,000 people of all ages and religions with no geographic restrictions, including plots for burial and cremated remains. Customers can reserve a selected plot pre-need and pay a fixed price now, or over a deferred period, interest free.

Research carried out by the BBC found space for burials is running out with many council controlled cemeteries already full or at ‘critical’ levels. Local authority planning restrictions prohibits the use of green belt land for burial plots.