But they have a statutory duty as the Burial Authority to provide cemetery space for people of all faiths.
Henley Road cemetery
Town hall staff in Reading, Berkshire, are trying to work out how to double cemetery space by 2027, and admit the ‘biggest pressure’ comes from an increase in Muslim burials with one cemetery will ‘run out of Muslim plots’ in three years.
Henley Road Cemetery has adjacent council-owned recreation land that could be used for the extra space but the local authority has warned that burial space ‘is at a premium’ in most urban areas.
Recent figures show the cemetery, which is one of three council-owned burial grounds in Reading, has to cope with a current demand for an average of 114 new grave spaces per year.
The council says regular plots will run out in 12 years if the cemetery is not expanded, but space for Muslim graves is even more critical and will run out in three years.
Reading Council is facing pressure on its graveyards
Latest census figures show the town’s Muslim population has grown from three per cent in 2001 to seven per cent in 2011.
Mohammed Banaras, chairman of the Reading Islamic Centre, said more: “Muslim burial plots were needed in the town to cope with an increased Muslim population in Reading.”
He said Muslims needed a separate burial site because Islamic tradition requires them to be buried within 24 hours, and that the remains need to face Mecca.
The council is likely to have to find at least £100,000 to provide more plots at the graveyard cemetery, in All Hallows Road, Caversham, which hasbeen run by the authority since since 1927.
Figures show demand for burial space in Reading stands at just under 20 per cent of all interments, as against 80 per cent for cremations.
Ribble Valley, Lancashire
The news comes after concerns were raised over plans to put a Muslim cemetery in a local beauty spot in Ribble, Lancashire, earlier this year.
Local Tory MP Nigel Evans blasted the proposals, saying the scenic spot is the “wrong site” for such an enormous cemetery.
He said: “I find it rather odd that this site is mainly to be used for people currently residing in another town miles away. Surely the most appropriate site should be amongst the community it is intended to serve.”