Six-week burial wait highlights delays at Norwich’s cemeteries

Debbie Moore who's father Donald Folkard, died in May this year and his burial won't be until June 2

Debbie Moore who's father Donald Folkard, died in May this year and his burial won't be until June 21. She wants raise awarenss of how long it takes to get a burial in the city. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

A bereaved daughter has spoken of her distress at the six week wait she has had to endure to bury her father, due to delays caused by high demand.

Debbie Moore's father, Donald Folkard, died on May 10, aged 85, but will not be buried until tomorrow, because the city council was not able to provide a new grave until then.

The authority said it regretted the long wait, which it said was caused by high demand and complex logistics about when and where graves could be dug around its Earlham Road cemetery.

However, Mrs Moore, 58, from Ruskin Road, criticised the delay and urged the council to take action to speed up the process.

'I think it's terrible, especially considering the size that Norwich is getting now.


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'It was Father's Day this weekend and I would have liked to have done something, but I can't do anything because my father won't be buried until June 21.

'I think something should be done about it. They can't carry on like this. God help us if there is a flu epidemic or something.'

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A spokesman for Norwich City Council, which also runs Rosary Road cemetery, said the wait the family had endured was 'unusual'.

He said: 'The wait experienced by this family is unusual for our service and we regret any distress that this has caused.

'Our experienced officers work closely with bereaved families to make arrangements at what we know is a very difficult time.'

He said that longer waiting times were caused by various factors, such as high demand, the depth of graves being used, and complications such as cave-ins or the presence of tree roots.

Mr Folkard, known as 'Donny' to his friends and family, lived in Norwich all his life and worked as a floor layer. He is survived by his wife, three children, six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

His funeral service will take place before the burial tomorrow at 11.15am at St Catherine's Church.

In April we reported on delays at the city's crematoria as well. Some families had to wait up to five weeks for a cremation of a loved one at Earlham Crematorium and St Faith's Crematorium, because their operator, Dignity, was carrying out maintenance work.

Norwich burial facts

- A spokesman for Norwich City Council said new graves at Earlham Road and Rosary Road cemeteries were dug to 9ft deep, which took an entire day to complete, and longer if there were complications such as cave-ins or the presence of tree roots.

- Two graves are never dug side-by-side within six months of each other as they would inevitably collapse.

- It is unusual for there to be more than two new nine-foot graves dug a week, and waiting times for burials vary depending on the number of requests the cemeteries have at any given time, and on the types of graves being dealt with.

- However, family interments already in use would not need to be dug as deep - perhaps 6ft or 7ft depending on how many times they have already been used - and therefore take less time to dig and are less subject to complication.

- The council also provides common or existing graves which are a similar set up, but would not have been used by specific family members.

- Throughout the year the council completes approximately five burials a week - including cremated remains. While there may be only one or two burials in some weeks, there is a far greater demand in other weeks which presents a challenge it can be difficult to meet.

The council spokesman said: 'Waiting times for burials are subject to various factors, such as demand at the time and the depth of the graves being used.'

- There are also times when funeral directors, dates and times offered by the council's service are rejected because the families can't be brought together at short notice – some of the delays are due to the family's own preference for a later date.

- The council spokesman said the council's view is that a that a slightly longer wait for a funeral was preferable to having to cancel planned funerals in the event of complications arising during grave-digging.

- The council employs up to eight people on contract to dig graves and has one mechanical digger.

To speed-up the process the council would have to hire additional staff to cover grounds maintenance duties while the trained gravediggers are digging graves. This would push up the cost of burials.

- The Rosary and Earlham cemeteries cover almost 100 acres of land. Assuming there is no change to current death rates and no change to the current ratio of burials to cremations, there is around 25 years of burial capacity remaining in The Rosary and more than 50 years in Earlham.

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