For the first time, the Home Office is compiling a register of burial grounds, including municipal, church and private cemeteries.
However, because this will be the first time, there is no existing list to refer to in order to send questionnaires to the right people, so the Home Office is relying on District Councils and Diocesan Registrars to cascade down the questionnaires to the relevant people.
As well as finding out where the burial grounds are, the questionnaire seeks information such as whether the site is still in use for new burials and, if it is, the remaining life span. The Home Office also wants information such as the size of sites and the number of people employed by the cemetery.
The study is a result of the Government's Select Committee investigation into burial grounds in 2001. The committee said then that its enquiry was being hampered by a lack of information. "We do not even know how many burial authorities there are, still less how many cemeteries," complained the Committee.
The Home Office said it would find out during 2001 and report back. However, the national press, which had become concerned about injuries and the number of headstones being laid flat by councils, quickly turned its attention to other matters and the subject moved down the government's agenda.
In January last year the Home Office issued a consultation document about burial and cemeteries. The response was so great that processing the information is taking longer than expected, says the Home Office. As a result, the report has been delayed but should be published this year, it says.