January 2024: News from Mayor Marvin Rees

Cemeteries are completely unique spaces in a city’s environment, combining architecture with landscapes and wildlife, silence with reflection. They are memorials to the dead and the past, to Bristolians of years gone by. They serve an essential purpose for the living.

These spaces touch everyone’s life in some way and serve as a constant reminder of those who they loved. Burials, and the lasting memories they provide, are landmark events for those who are grieving a loss. If they want to, everyone deserves to be able to bury those they have lost and to have a space to come to remember them. That’s why we have taken important steps to expand South Bristol Cemetery onto neighbouring land that has been allocated for its expansion since the 1960s. It will include 1,500 adult and 260 baby burial plots, new memorial plots and new footpaths.

Bristol City Council has eight cemeteries. They are beautiful spaces that offer a break from the busy city and time to reflect and remember. But their capacities are limited, part of the finite 42 square miles that make up our city, where our population has increased by 48,000 people since 2008. Council cemeteries, including South Bristol Cemetery, need more room. 

So we are acting now to ensure residents from across our city, of all faiths and none, have the space and opportunity for burials in our city. I’m pleased by the decision made by the planning committee in December.

The proposed expansion includes enough land to cover 25 years of ongoing burials in Bristol, including space for a diverse range of faith burials to address community needs alongside an adjacent area for infant burials. This is a necessary decision to have made and the correct one. We are able to enact this expansion now, thanks to a long-sighted agreement between the Council and Yew Tree Farm. In May 2021, council officers met with the farm, providing a generous temporary grazing agreement on the land beyond the scope of the initial expansion. This is set to take place over ten years, in the knowledge that some of that land would be needed for future necessary burial expansion.

The expansion will involve less than 10% of the land currently used (without tenancy) by Yew Tree Farm.

The Council will continue working closely with them on granting a long-term lease for the remaining 90% of grazing land. Similarly, officers have taken steps to submit a robust set of flood monitoring and ecological assessments, including a new wetland pond habitat, new hedgerows and tree planting. These measures will ensure a rich biodiversity is maintained. Cemeteries have the potential to be nature rich, beautiful green spaces for residents who have lost loved ones. And Bristolians should never be forced outside of the city’s boundaries to mourn.

In years to come, we can be proud that our foresight to protect space for our cemeteries ensured we could meet demand. We must maintain them as special places, close to the hearts of residents for generations to come. It’s important we take decisions that look to protect the future of Bristol.