Woodland burial concept expands


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A pioneering Norfolk woodland burial park is to be replicated at Epping in Essex, with more sites around the UK to follow.

The operators of the Colney Woodland Burial Park, near Norwich, have won planning permission for burials on 52 acres of greenbelt wood near Epping.

Colney Memorial Parks plans to lease the site for 99 years and invest about £2m, including providing a building where burial services will be held.

Managing director Nick Taylor said: “The Colney concept will be replicated almost entirely in Epping, with the same suite of buildings and with some improvements.”

Although other operators offer burials in woodland at the edge of cemeteries or “green burials”, where saplings are planted on open land, Colney is different in using existing woodland.

Colney has won many accolades, including being named the top Green Burial Site in the 2005 Cemetery of the Year Awards.

“Awards like that give us the confidence that we have the right concept,” said Mr Taylor. “It is not just having the woodland and the right buildings, it is all aspects of what we provide. We allow two hours between each service, for example. There is plenty of time and no one has to feel hurried.”

Burial plots are arranged in circles around trees and there are smaller plots for the interment of ashes. There is also an area for the scattering of ashes.

Work has been done at the 12-acre Colney site to encourage wildlife and there are regular events at the cemetery, including jazz evenings, dawn chorus walks and nature rambles for children.

Graves are marked with oak memorials, which in time will degrade, and the plan at the end of the 99-year lease is for the site to revert to natural woodland under the care of a trust.

Property consultancy Bidwells secured the planning permission at Epping, which is part of a strategy by the company to open sites near London.

“Our strategy is to be where the greatest need is,” said Mr Taylor. “It is a question of where the biggest centres of population are and there is also the situation where many London cemeteries are full or close to being full.”

Colney Memorial Parks is appealing against the refusal of planning permission for a site at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, which Mr Taylor feels the company has a good chance of winning. The company was also looking at two or three sites in other parts of the UK.

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