Cemeteries & Crematoria

A CDS Review of the new EA Guidance - Protecting Groundwater From Human Burials – Environmental Permit Requirements from 1st April 2022


The Environment Agency published an update to the guidance surrounding cemeteries and environmental permitting, which has since superseded all previous guidance notes as off 1st April 2022. This update is separate from the recent DEFRA review, which is yet to be published.

This document aims to provide our clients with a simple review of the major changes identified in the updated guidance and how these changes may impact the operation of a limited number of existing cemeteries and the impacts the changes will have to proposed cemetery extensions and new cemetery sites going through planning after April 2022. Please read our other guidance document regarding the changes to good practice which will impact existing cemeteries.

Environmental Permitting

As of the 1st April 2022, the new guidance requires any new cemetery development or extension to an existing cemetery to be risk assessed to determine whether the development would require an Environmental Permit to operate.

The main criteria, which determines whether a site would require an environmental permit are as follows:

  • your site undertakes more than 100 burials per annum
  • it presents a high risk to the environment due to its proposed location
  • your site needs active pollution prevention mitigation measures or operational burial controls to protect the water environment (such as ongoing groundwater monitoring or active dewatering to allow burials to take place)
  • the Environment Agency told you during the coronavirus pandemic that you would need to apply for a permit
  • you submitted a planning application on or after1 April 2022 and the Environment Agency told you that you would need to apply for a permit

You do not however need an environmental permit if:

  • they do not need to use active mitigation measures to prevent pollution
  • they are not planning to expand a cemetery area after 1 April 2022 which needs new planning permission under section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
  • they are planning to expand a cemetery area after 1 April 2022 which needs new planning permission, but the risk assessment shows that the expansion is not high risk and the Environment Agency has agreed this
  • the Environment Agency has told them, as part of their planning application, that they do not need a permit
  • if all burials on existing sites are of human ashes from crematoria.

The criteria listed above provides the background as to whether or not a new site or an extension to an existing site will require an environmental permit. The key criteria of whether or not a site will require permit will be driven by the results of the Groundwater Risk Assessment, which is undertaken as part of the planning application work.

It is therefore critical to undertake such risk assessments at an early stage to understand whether or not the site will require an environmental permit, and in the case of high risk sites, whether the EA would be willing to grant a permit or if strict controls around burials and mitigation measure would be required which would have potential significant cost implications.

Applying for a Permit

If, for any of the reasons set out above, a site is deemed to be required to apply for an Environmental Permit, then the following process and costs would be applicable.

An Environmental permit application should be submitted to the EA to apply for a bespoke groundwater activity permit in line with the new guidance. This requires a range of forms to be completed and submitted to the EA which includes the following:

Costs of the Permit

The direct costs to apply for a bespoke groundwater activity permit are £2708.00 exc VAT, this is a one off fee, due for payment on application.

Once a bespoke groundwater activity permit has been granted, then an annual charge based on the number of annuals burials would also be charged, which is required to ensure the site remains legally permitted.

  • £256 per annum for up to and including 1,430 burials a year
  • £812 per annum for over 1,430 burials a year

If any changes to the permit are required, then the following additional fees will also apply.

  • £812 for a minor variation to the permit
  • £1,354 normal variation
  • £2,437 substantial variation

How can we help?

CDS have over 15 years’ experience in undertaking groundwater risk assessments for cemetery developments up and down the country, with over 400 undertaken to date. Our experience and expertise can assist our clients in identifying suitable sites and identify at an early stage whether a site would require an environmental permit to operate. This enables our clients to understand the financial and operation implications at an early stage.

Our in house team of planners and engineers can also assist in undertaking the permit application where required on behalf of our clients, reducing the demand on already stretched Local Authority resources and providing comfort that the application will be managed by a team of experienced consultants.

If you would like to know more please contact us.

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