You can bury the person who has died in a private or a local authority cemetery, Church of England or other religious burial ground, nature reserve, your own or other land, as long as the owner gives prior permission.
If you want to bury on your own land – in your garden, perhaps – you are advised to make sure that the body will not pose a health hazard by polluting water supplies. So: the site should be more than 30m from any spring or any other body of water. The site should be 10m from any dry ditch or field drain. The site should be at least 50m from any well, borehole or spring. Stay clear of water, gas and electrical services.
Check there is no covenant on the land that could prohibit a burial. Ensure there are no byelaws preventing the burial. Be prepared to take a hit on the value of your property. Be aware that a subsequent owner may apply for an exhumation licence and have the body moved. In England & Wales the landowner must make and protect a land burial register but not in Scotland. Damage to, alteration or destruction of could result in life imprisonment.
If you want to bury someone in your garden in England and Wales, read this. In Scotland, read this. It is the view of John Bradfield that “you may hear of various distances of graves from ditches, ponds, wells and so on. Those distances are used for oil storage tanks so have nothing to do with burials. The Environment Agency has stated that there is no evidence of any problems with burials in any places.”
If you want to bury in a local authority cemetery, you can pay for burial in what’s called an unpurchased grave, sometimes known as a common grave or a public grave. The rights to the grave remain with the landowner, who can bury anybody else they want in the grave. For this reason, you cannot erect a headstone or other memorial. Some local authority cemeteries have within them an area set aside for natural burial.
You can buy through a lease exclusive right of burial in a grave for a fixed term, often extendable. Note: you buy exclusive right of burial in the plot, you don’t own the plot itself; the land remains the property of the owner. The lease of the plot (maximum 100 years, often 30) is recorded in a Deed of Grant. You can say who else may be buried in the grave. You will probably be able to have a headstone put up, but check first.
By offering leases a burial ground enables its graves to be re-used if legislation is brought in to enable it. London burial authorities already enjoy limited rights to reclaim and re-use old graves. If graves throughout the UK are going to be re-used it is likely they will adopt a technique called ‘lift-and-deepen’, whereby skeletal remains are reburied at the bottom of the ‘new’ grave.
Some local authorities have an area set aside for natural burial. Contact your your local authority for information.
There are private burial grounds, most of them natural burial grounds, which operate according to their own rules. Check before you buy. Read this.
You can bury someone at sea. Sea burial is difficult to arrange and very expensive which is why only around twenty of them happen every year. You can only do it where there is no hazard to shipping, especially fishing vessels. These places are the Needles, off the Isle of Wight, the waters between Hastings and Newhaven and off Tynemouth, North Tyneside. You need to obtain a licence from the Marine Management Organisation. It’s free. It will tell you precisely what you have to do. For example the body must be tagged in case it should accidentally be freed from the coffin and washed ashore. The coffin must be weighted and have many holes bored in it to let the water in.
More information here.