Lairs – time for re-evaluation?

Charles Cowling

Posted by Vale

Have you ever thought about the rateable value of cemeteries and burial grounds?

The Scottish Assessors Association have. They offer information about how sites and locations should be valued and have some fascinating guidance for cemeteries, churchyards, graveyards and necropolises.

A guidance note advises that:  

The recommended rate is £110 per coffin lair. Where casket lairs are provided they should be taken at £45 per lair.  (see more here)

Lairs. Wonderful!

But there’s more to this tale than old fashioned language. In February the Bournemouth Echo reported here  that:

WIMBORNE Cemetery has scored a landmark victory in a two-year battle against a 150 per cent rise in its rates.

Thousands of chapels across the country could escape similarly steep costs after the cemetery won an appeal based on an historic act that the Church of England cannot own anything.

Rather than accept the Valuations Office hiking the picturesque cemetery chapel’s annual rateable value from £3,250 to £8,000, clerk and registrar Anthony Sherman took the matter to Parliament, enlisted barristers and even threatened a judicial review. Now the rise has been overturned, they’re looking to claim the money back.

It seems there could be wider implications too, particularly for Natural Burial grounds. A local company,  Tapper Funerals which also operates a natural burial ground congratulated Wimborne on its win and commented that :

Valuations of cemeteries have always been extremely low due to the low financial turnover and the high maintenance costs relative to the large expanse of land (similar in some ways to farming). Strangely, as private businesses embarked on cemetery provision, the Valuations Office has started to view them completely differently with increases, in some places, of many 100s of percent. It is difficult not to be cynical over the timing of such changes!

You can read more here.

Is there a wider issue out there? Are other natural – or just non-religious – burial grounds fighting local battles about rateable values? It would be interesting to find out.

One thought on “Lairs – time for re-evaluation?

  1. Charles Cowling
    James Leedam

    For many years the ANBG has claimed success with the VOA on this – these words appear on their website:

    The ANBG negotiated on behalf of members with the Government’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to establish a set of guidelines with regard to a new scheme for assessment of natural burial grounds for business rates. Prior to our negotiations the VOA had sought to treat natural burial grounds as cemeteries under another name. As a result of our lengthy dialogue there is now a published scheme which far more accurately reflects the finances of their situation. So successful was this united approach that some sites have already seen their assessments reduced by as much as 88%. One, indeed, has been reduced to a nominal £1.

    However, the formula which ANBG and the VOA devised (and that ANBG claims as a triumph) is in fact inappropriate and meaningless for the wide diversity of burial grounds to which it is applied. For many of us the formula actually produces punitive valuations and results in a lot of grief to challenge the VOA’s assessments. I believe that ANBG missed the opportunity to properly contribute to the last round of VOA amendments to the system of rating burial grounds – perhaps it’s time they updated us…

    It makes sense for NBG operators to team together (possibly through ANBG or the ICCM) and collectively obtain expert advice so that the current inappropriate approach to business rates valuations is brought to an end so that privately operated natural burial grounds can properly plan their finances for the future.


    Charles Cowling

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