Homes within a cemetery’s grounds are soon expected to be put up for sale.
Sunderland City Council is hoping to lease or sell off two Grade II listed properties it owns, after winning court approval to include the gardens attached.
The gardens surrounding the Gothic style lodges at the entrance to Grangetown Cemetery are consecrated land, which was used for burials more than 100 years ago - and still contain unmarked graves.
Council records reveal there are a total of 49 adults and 22 children and babies somewhere under the surfaces of the proposed garden land at the North and South entrance lodges to the cemetery.
One is believed to have 18 adults and ten children beneath its surface and the other 31 adults and 12 babies.
As the land is consecrated, permission was needed from the Church of England’s Consistory Court for it to be offered with the properties.
These conditions are onerous, but are necessary to ensure the consecrated areas are suitable for their continuing use as places of rest for the interred remains.Adrian Iles
Both have been used as gardens in the past by previous occupants of the lodges though without the necessary consent having been given.
Chancellor of the Diocese of Durham Adrian Iles, in his role as a judge of the Consistory Court, has given his approval for the council to press ahead with its plan and has legitimised the garden use, but imposed strict conditions on future gardening activities.
He ruled that the gardens, for the time being at least, must remain in the ownership of the council who must issue a licence stipulating that the land must only be used as a private garden and must be kept neat and tidy by the occupier.
He also banned any sort of structure being erected on the gardens unless approval from the court has been obtained, saying : “These conditions are onerous, but are necessary to ensure the consecrated areas are suitable for their continuing use as places of rest for the interred remains.”
He said legal authorities made it clear that there were circumstances where consecrated land could be used ‘for secular purposes’ but that any such use “must be consistent with the decent and respectful treatment of the remains of those decreased persons who have been interred.”
Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, Coun Stuart Porthouse, said: “The City Council has an on-going policy of disposing of land and property it no longer needs.
“As in all sales, this is about achieving best value for Council Tax payers.
“The proposed sale of these Grade II properties at the cemetery has seen the council working with church authorities and the council notes the Consistory Court’s findings.
“The council can now look to bring the properties to the market.”