It is possible to bury a loved one in your garden and the law is contained in the Burial Laws Amendment Act 1880 although there are still certain requirements that must be met. A person who knows the circumstances of the death and has a lawful certificate of the cause of death must first register a death with their local Register Office.
It is legal to be buried on your own property if you own it in its entirety and the burial plot is far enough from a ditch or water source to meet Environment Agency rules. The Government explain on their website at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/cemeteries-and-burials-prevent-groundwater-pollution#human-home-burials that if you need help understanding the requirements then you will need to contact the Environment Agency. People are also able to find further information on private land burials on the Natural Death Centre website.
You do not need planning permission but the person responsible must also be in possession of a certificate of authority for burial (consent from the local authority to enable the burial to take place) and create a simple burial register to include details such as name, address, date of birth and date of death and the place of burial. A plan also needs to be made and kept with the register, showing the exact location of the grave.
A body comes within the definition of "clinical waste" and as such cannot be disposed of except under the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and the Environment Protection Act 1990. A licensed operator is usually needed but a local authority may waive the requirement in special circumstances. Remember it is a criminal offence to dispose of "controlled waste" otherwise than in accordance with the Acts.
There has been coverage in the news in recent years regarding garden burials. For example, in 2014, Kirstie Allsopp, best known as co-presenter of Channel 4 show ‘Location, Location, Location’, buried her mother in her parent’s back garden in accordance with her wishes and most recently, you may have seen on the internet that a property in Leeds recently went on the market, but the previous owner was buried in the garden! The previous owner, who had lived in the property for all of his life, had told his family that his last wish was to be buried in the back garden. The property, advertised by estate agents, notes “Please be aware this property is being sold by family members as part of a relative’s estate… it was the deceased’s wishes to be buried in the garden as he was born and died in the house. This wish has been carried out and the property will be sold as is”.
People might also wish to draw a link to the recent ITV drama ‘Finding Alice’, starring Keeley Hawes. In the show, grieving wife Alice looks to bury her husband Harry in the garden and carries out the wish.
However, as portrayed in all of the scenarios above, an important consideration is when the property changes hands in the future as you may want to consider the impact of garden graves when you or your family come to try and sell your property! If your wish is to be buried in the garden or on private land then do make sure you have followed all of the correct protocols and keep safe any documents relating to it to ensure that your wishes can be met.