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Public Health

Burial of the Dead and the Scattering of Ashes

Under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 each local authority has a duty to arrange a funeral when it becomes apparent that the deceased person has no friends or family able to make the arrangements or take the responsibility for paying the fees involved.

The Council may recover from the estate of the deceased person or from any person responsible for maintaining the deceased prior to their death any expenses incurred in effecting the funeral arrangements in the form of a civil debt recoverable within 3 years. The first claim on the estate of the deceased person is for funeral expenses. The Council has no powers to accept responsibility after private funeral arrangements have been made.

We can confirm that the following Public Health Funerals have been administered by Pembrokeshire County Council since 1st April 2018 


Date of death

Date of birth

Place of Death

Next of kin

Referred to Treasury Solicitor



 Ridgeway Nursing Home, Llawhaden





 Ridgeway Nursing Home, Llawhaden




Who is responsible if someone dies in hospital or a care home?

If someone dies in hospital, or in an ambulance on the way to hospital, it is the responsibility of the Health Authority to make the arrangements for the burial.

When someone dies in a local authority home or in temporary accommodation, the health board, NHS Trust or the social work department of the local authority may arrange the funeral. Whichever authority arranges the funeral may claim on the deceased person's estate to offset the cost involved.

Can I bury a loved one on my own or private land?

Burials usually occur in cemeteries or churchyards; however, some individuals choose to be buried in private land, e.g., farmland, woodland or private gardens. However, social implications should always be considered, as neighbours would no doubt be concerned about any burials taking place in close proximity to their homes. It should also be noted that the value of the property may be affected by a burial within its grounds, as prospective buyers may be put off from purchasing the property.

What must I do if I want to carry out a burial on my own or private land?

When considering a private land burial the following information should be noted: -

  • If you own the land concerned, you must check the deeds to ensure there are no restrictions on what the property may be used for.
  • A certificate of disposal is issued by a Coroner or the Registrar of births, deaths and marriages when the death is registered, the detachable section needs to be completed and returned to the Registrar.
  • The Registrar of births, deaths and marriages must be notified of the place of burial. As records are only held by them concerning the private burial site for 5-6 years, a "Burial Register" will need to be created. This is a record kept with property deeds indicating, who is buried, where they were buried and when they were buried; as if the land is sold or building work enacted, then the police and whoever owns the property will need to know about the site. It is recommended that an amendment be added to the land registry so a permanent record is available for future purchasers.

What are the specific requirements of a private burial?

  • Burials should be at least 10 metres from any field drain or ditch draining to a water course, 30 metres of any spring or standing or running water and at least 50 metres away from any well, borehole or spring that supplies water for any use.
  • The burial site must comply with Environment Agency guidelines as failure to comply with these guidelines can lead to the body being exhumed.
  • There is no minimum depth at which a body should be buried, although a minimum of 1 metre from the coffin top to the soil surface is recommended. The bottom of the burial cavity must be free of standing water when excavated.
  • If a memorial is planned for the person buried, planning permission may be required from the council's planning department to have the memorial erected as any memorial is considered a building under national Planning law. In some circumstances, planning permission may not be required providing that no substantial memorial were erected, it is unlikely whether land where one person was laid to rest would be held to be burial ground, this might change if two or more were similarly interred.
  • Once remains have been buried, they may not be disturbed or removed without authorisation. There is no guarantee that future owners of the property would allow a burial to rest in peace and could apply for a Home Office license for exhumation. In addition, future owners may prevent access to relatives who wish to pay their respects at the burial site.

What is the law relating to the scattering of ashes?

Unlike burials and re-internments there is no law relating to the scattering of ashes. All that you must do is ensure that you have the permission of the owner of the land where the ashes are to be scattered and ensure that there are no nearby water courses or sensitive wildlife habitats that could be adversely affected.

As a rule of thumb when scattering ashes, you should not: -

  • Spread ashes within 1km upstream of any drinking water supply.
  • Spread ashes where the water is used for commercial, agricultural or recreational purposes, such as a marina.
  • Use a bridge over a river used by boaters or canoeists.
  • Use anywhere close to anglers.
  • Hold ceremonies in windy weather or close to buildings because of the risk of ashes being blown astray.  You should spread the ashes as close to the surface of the water as reasonably possible.
  • Allow other non-biodegradable materials such as wreathes and  plastic bags to enter water.

When scattering ashes, consider the time of day - early in the morning or towards dusk are recommended and be considerate to passers by or people in the vicinity.

ID: 2379, revised 21/08/2018