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Increasing Demand for Burial Ground in NI Met with Complex Planning Permission and Assessments

With Northern Irish cemeteries running low on space (City Cemetery in Derry/Londonderry is expected to be full by 2024), the need for new burial ground is becoming increasingly urgent.

Calls to develop new cemetery sites and extend existing graveyards across Northern Ireland are only being exacerbated by the country’s low cremation rates, as new research from Queen’s University Belfast shows the Northern Irish cremation rate is 21.8%, compared to the rest of the UK which sits at 71.19%. In other areas, high demand for burial plots has seen authorities resorting to ‘double burials’ and reduced plot size in order to retain local access for families.

With existing graveyards reaching capacity, complications for new burial ground can occur where they pose a potential risk to the water environment and, crucially, to local water supplies when created without close examination of local soils, geology and water features.


Planning Permission for Graveyards and Cemeteries

To build a new or extend an existing burial site, planning permission must be obtained, including providing a Hydrogeological Risk Assessment (HRA) to the NIEA, who have responsibility for the protection of groundwater and surface water quality. This initial risk assessment will typically require further assessment of ground conditions at the proposed site. In some cases, where more detailed consideration of the risk is deemed necessary, modelling of pollutant loads can be required.

The hydrogeology team at O’Sullivan Macfarlane (including leading Hydrogeologist, Peter McConvey) have significant experience in assessing such sites and preparing Hydrogeological Risk Assessment Reports to meet the specific requirements of NIEA. Having previous regulatory experience, they are able to suggest mitigation measures, when necessary, to allow the site to be developed to meet the needs of the local community whilst protecting the environment.


Hydrogeological Risk Assessments (HRA) across Northern Ireland

If you are involved with obtaining approval for a new burial site, contact O’Sullivan Macfarlane to discuss how we can support your application and minimise any delays in obtaining planning permission.   

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