Following the success of a trial last year, council-owned cemeteries across East Suffolk will now be managed in a new way, ensuring the needs of both communities and wildlife are catered for.
A new policy, approved by East Suffolk Council’s Cabinet last month, will be used to manage all cemeteries owned by East Suffolk Council, as well as any closed churchyards whose upkeep responsibility falls to the Council.
The policy carefully balances the importance of providing accessible burial spaces for the bereaved to visit, with the need to create spaces which benefit the environment, as well as the physical and mental health of the wider community.
Most burials take place within ‘lawn sections’ and in these areas, grass cutting takes place approximately every two weeks between March and September. However, to provide essential spaces for wildlife, some older and less frequently used sections of the cemeteries will be left to grow and become ‘wild spaces’ for the benefit of conservation.
The new environmental policy is one of a suite which the Council has implemented to manage its cemeteries and the closed churchyards it has responsibility for.
Cllr James Mallinder, cabinet member for the Environment said: “Cemeteries and churchyards have a significant role for local communities and must be maintained appropriately to ensure burial spaces remain accessible for bereaved families. Our new policy adopts a sympathetic and balanced approach where we can ensure those who want to visit their loved ones can do so, whilst also providing essential sanctuaries for wildlife.
“These biodiversity areas will still be carefully managed and will be cut back annually to avoid them being overtaken by scrub and invasive plants. This new policy gives us the opportunity to safeguard these valuable habitats in places where they can be enjoyed by parishioners and visitors alike.”
The conservation areas will initially be cut in March and then again in late summer. To ensure accessibility, the edges of main paths and routes to memorials, chapels and other regularly accessed areas will still be cut regularly.
No sprays or pesticides are used in council-owned cemeteries and closed churchyards, unless as a final resort to remove invasive species such as Japanese Knot Weed.
Signs will be in place in cemeteries explaining the maintenance policy to visitors.
The new cemetery policy is in addition to the creation of conservation areas across East Suffolk, as part of plans to increase biodiversity. Last year, 40 wild spaces were created and this year, a further 60 spaces have been identified, meaning there will now be 100 wild spaces across the district where grass and wildflowers will be left to grow.