“There's no real need for it.” That’s the message from a Midlands cemetery group following an outcry over plans to build a Muslim burial ground in a picturesque village.
Solihull Council is still to consider the application for the 4,000 plots in Catherine-de-Barnes, but local Muslim leaders say the site is vital because of a lack of burial sites and an an ageing Muslim population in the area.
Kamran Saleem, general manager of Springhill Cemetery Group which operate two large sites in Lichfield and Walsall – with 6,000 allocated plots in designated sections for Muslim families – said he was not aware of a shortage in the Solihull area.
He said: “There is a national shortage of burial space, it is not just confined to particular regions or religious denominations. The problem is evident across the UK in many towns and cities.
“The original Muslim section at Widney Manor Cemetery, Solihull, was opened in 1992 and has only recently reached capacity. Many Muslims are still repatriated back to their countries of origin, so this take-up of plots is reflective of the community need of Solihull.
Mr Saleem added: “Solihull Council extended Widney Manor in 2013 and, within this site, there is an extended designated Muslim section to reflect the increase in demand.
“In reality, Birmingham’s Muslim community is unlikely to travel the distance to Catherine-de-Barnes and are more likely to travel to other cemeteries which also offer Muslim sections.”
Letters of objection have been sent to the council, claiming the proposed development encroaches on greenbelt land and will increase traffic and noise through the village, which has a population of just 600.
Funeral director Mohammad Khalil said Muslim communities in the West Midlands were in “dire need” of burial spaces.
He said: “Under Islamic law, Muslims must be buried in their own section of land, next to others who have the same faith.
The law also stipulates that graves should be single-depth and forbids cremation.
He added the Muslim section of Handsworth Cemetery, the primary burial site in Birmingham and Solihull, was running out of space.