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. For further information on these payments, please visit the website. In these cases, the council will seek to recover its expenses from any funeral payment that the relative receives.

Notifications to the council are from the Coroner's Office, which will have done all necessary investigations into the circumstances requiring this service.

A register of Public Health Funerals is available to download.

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 substantial memorial.
  • It is advised to let the police know so that the burial is not treated as suspicious.
  • Be aware that a private burial in a garden can reduce the value of the property and that mortgage lenders should be told.
  • If the remains need to be moved, then a Home Office License 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 will be available from the Environment Agency and advice on the location of private water supplies will be 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 there must be 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.


For further information, please contact Environmental Health:

Last updated on 18/02/2019

Contact the Environmental Health team