Burial space in Handsworth Cemetery’s Muslim section is almost full and with no additional available land at the site, Birmingham City Council has announced.

The cemetery, which is based in the north of the city, currently has fewer than 15 graves available in its Muslim section which is expected to be completely full in just two weeks.

According to officials, capacity in the section dedicated to the local Muslim community has been used up faster during the COVID-19 pandemic and it is anticipated to be completely full within a fortnight, but this won’t affect graves which have already been reserved.

Additionally, there are less than 70 available plots for members of other religions, expected to be full within the next two to three months. Although the diminishing land space has raised concerns, the council has reassured residents it doesn’t necessarily mean there are no Muslim graves available in the rest of the city.

Alternative measures

In September 2018, the local authority made 12,000 new burial spaces available at Sutton New Hall Cemetery which is also located in North Birmingham, with further provision available to extend the cemetery by another 18 acres in future years as the need arises.

Handsworth Cemetery in Birmingham is nearly full following greater usage during the COVID-19 pandemic Andy Mabbett
Handsworth Cemetery in Birmingham is nearly full following greater usage during the COVID-19 pandemic

Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods said, “The impact of COVID-19 has meant that burial space at Handsworth Cemetery has been used at a faster rate than we would have previously anticipated.

“However, we’ve planned for the time the cemetery at Handsworth would reach its capacity. The investment at Sutton New Hall is significant and will provide sufficient burial land in Birmingham for the next 18 years for those communities who wish to be buried in that part of the city.

“It has been designed to meet the needs of all communities that wish to be buried at Sutton New Hall Cemetery and can accommodate people from all faiths, as well as different types of graves to meet customers’ wishes.”

According to the council, the site at Sutton New Hall has also been designed so that there is extensive flood lighting available which means burials can continue to take place with greater flexibility during the darker winter months. The local authority has also pointed out that there is additionally still capacity in King’s Norton Cemetery.

Cllr Sharon Thompson is the cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods BCC
Cllr Sharon Thompson is the Birmingham City Council cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods

Opening times changes to Birmingham cemeteries

The news comes as opening times for Birmingham’s cemeteries and crematoria are set to change this weekend.

Responding to new guidance around the current coronavirus pandemic, the council is enforcing changes around bereavement, limiting the hours people spend at cemeteries, crematoria, and surrounding grounds.

According to Birmingham City Council, the measures aim to reflect the increase in funerals taking place while highlighting the need to maintain social distancing, especially in line with daylight saving time and clocks going back on Sunday.

From Sunday 25 October, cemeteries and crematoria in Birmingham will be open on weekdays from 2-4pm (or 6pm where there is flood lighting) for the public to visit. Weekend hours will be from 10am-4pm at most sites.

In recognition that these hours are reduced, one day every week, each site will be open all day to allow people greater flexibility for visiting (8.30am – 4pm, or 6pm where there are flood lights). However, this will mean that no funeral bookings will take place on those days.

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