Public Health Funerals

Under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, the council has a duty to arrange for the funeral of persons who die within the district where no suitable arrangements for disposal of the body have been made. The council is usually called upon where people have died without family or friends to make the necessary arrangements. The council arranges the registration of the death and the funeral and endeavours to recover the cost from pensions, insurance companies, sale of items etc. All monies remaining after the deduction of funeral and administration fees are forwarded to the Treasury solicitor, with whom close liaison is maintained.

In some circumstances, the council will act to arrange the funeral of a person where there is a surviving close relative who is not in a position to pay. In these cases the relative will be expected to apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment from the Social Fund. In these cases, the council will seek to recover its expenses from any funeral payment that the relative receives.

The council will not undertake the funeral where there is a will with an executor in place and financial means within the deceased estate.

The council will not become involved if funeral arrangements have already been made or the funeral has taken place. Anyone giving instructions to a funeral director will be responsible for any costs incurred.

Stratford-on-Avon District Council does not disclose the personal details of a deceased person and relies on Section 31(1) (a) of the Freedom of Information Act. Section 31 (1) (a) is a qualified exemption and therefore subject to the Public Interest Test (PIT). Section 31(1) (a) provides an exemption where prejudice could be caused to other investigations and to general steps taken in relation to law enforcement in that disclosure of this information would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime by enabling or encouraging the commission of offences, for instance fraud.

In applying this exemption, Stratford-on-Avon District Council has had to balance the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosure. The council has concluded that the PIT favours non-disclosure because, although disclosure of this information could ultimately lead to the next of kin becoming aware of the estate of a deceased person and promote general openness of information by the council, this is not outweighed by the harm that could be caused by increasing the incidence of crime through disclosure of personal information such as names, dates of birth and last known address. Releasing this information could lead to identity theft and/or fraud or, through releasing the last known property address, which is quite likely to be empty, could ultimately lead to crime such as burglary and squatting.

Therefore, this council is of the opinion that the balance of public interest favours non-disclosure of this information, but will consider each request individually.

Private Burials

Rather than using traditional cemeteries or crematoriums, some people choose to have private burials at home or on private land. This is an acceptable practice, although there are some procedures that must be followed. Before a private burial takes place, the Environmental Protection team at the council should be contacted on 01789 267575, as well as the Environment Agency on 08708 506506.

As well as contacting these agencies it is also important to consider the following issues:

  • There must be a certificate of disposal issued by the Local Register of Birth, Deaths and Marriages when the death is registered or, if the death has been referred to a Coroner, a document issued by them.
  • There must be permission of the landowner.
  • There is a duty on the owner of the land to register the burial and location on the deeds so there is a permanent record should the remains be mistakenly dug up in the future.
  • If there is more than one person laid to rest on the land then it may be considered a burial ground. The council's Planning Services should be contacted on 01789 260303. Planners should also be contacted if there are plans to erect a substantial memorial.
  • The police should be advised so that the burial is not treated as suspicious.
  • A private burial in a garden can reduce the value of the property and mortgage lenders should be told.
  • If the remains need to be moved, a Home Office Licence is required.
  • The burial should not interfere with planned building work or any services such as gas pipes or main sewers. Advice on local watercourses is available from the Environment Agency and advice on the location of private water supplies is available from the Environmental Protection team.

Spreading of Ashes

When choosing cremation it is important to consider what to do with the remains. Crematoriums will have areas where ashes can be spread and some cemeteries and graveyards will allow ashes to be spread or buried. Alternatively the ashes can be spread on private land or in rivers, streams or lakes. If ashes are spread on private land or lakes this must be with permission of the landowner. Spreading ashes into a stream or river is an accepted practice and for individual ceremonies there is no requirement to contact the Environment Agency. There is, however, expectation to comply with the following guidelines:

  • Do not spread ashes within 1km upstream of any drinking water supply.
  • Do not use a bridge over a river used by boaters and canoeists, anywhere close to a marina, or anywhere close to anglers.
  • Do not hold ceremonies in windy weather or close to buildings because of the risk of the ashes being blown astray. You should spread the ashes as close to the surface of the water as possible.
  • Do not allow other materials such as wreaths and plastic bags to enter the water.

Contact

For further information, please contact Environmental Health:

Last updated on 18/03/2019

Contact the Environmental Health team