PLANS have been submitted to change a green field site near Alston into a ‘natural burial’ cemetery.

Natural burial is the placing of bodies into the ground in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition, but allows the body to be naturally recycled.

This means that bodies are buried in a biodegradable coffin, casket or in a simple shroud rather than a traditional wooden coffin.

Natural burial does not use a burial vault to allow the body to come into contact with the soil which starts the natural process of decomposition.

The practice of natural burial is ancient and has been around for centuries, but fell out of fashion in favour of more established graves and burials.

However, in more recent times the practice has become more popular again in the UK for its environmental benefits.

The plan at Bridge End Farm, Alston is to turn land that is currently agricultural into a cemetery for natural burials.

Visitors will use a grass mowed footpath to gain pedestrian access from the farmyard/parking area up to the proposed site.

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There will be no raised headstones allowed at the proposed cemetery; instead, graves will be marked with an engraved Lakeland slate plaque laid flat to the ground so there will be 'no visual impact on the landscape' according to the planning application, which has been made to Westmorland and Furness council.

On top of the graves and throughout the site, the applicants intend to plant a mixture of native trees, including sessile oak, downy birch, alder, rowan, Scots pine, wild cherry, hawthorn and willow, of various sizes and along the boundary of the site.

The existing dry-stone wall will be retained and maintained, and the existing access will be modified to meet highway standards.

The application currently has no objections listed and is set to come before planning officers at Westmorland and Furness council in the autumn.