AFTER months of uncertainty, people who reserved plots at a troubled woodland burial site have been assured they will be able to be buried there.

The future of the environmental burial site in Durham City has been uncertain since the Woodland Burial Trust (WBT) – a community interest company set up to manage the site – went into administration last August.

Durham County Council, which owns the land next to South Road Cemetery, has now agreed to honour arrangements made by the trust, which means people who have reserved plots will be able to be buried there.

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The council is also planning to open it up for new interment requests once checks on burial records have been completed.

Councillor Brian Stephens, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “We know that the local community, along with many of those previously involved in running the site, is keen to see it continue to operate as a natural burial area.

“We are very pleased to announce that this will be the case, led by the council with significant community input. The site will be fully operational as soon as all of the burial records are accounted for, a process that should be complete soon.

“We are well aware that a number of people have paid to reserve a plot and they are unsure about the arrangements for the future. We are pleased to provide assurance that previous commitments made by the Woodland Burial Trust will be honoured.”

The trust, which was the first woodland burial site in the country to be run as a community interest company, was set up in 2009 with the aim of providing environmental burials in a four-acre wildlife area and it agreed a 125-year lease with the council.

The ground officially opened in 2012 and around 70 people were buried there before being suspended in May 2016.

Around 140 members have all paid at least a £500 deposit for a plot, with a number having paid the full £1,500 for a funeral.

The council is in talks with former members of the trust over their possible involvement in supporting the site in the future as a friends group.

Stephen Hare, from The Friends of Durham Woodland Cemetery, said: “We are pleased the council has taken action to honour the agreements made by the WBT and are committed to supporting its efforts.

“Operating as a friends group, we will do all we are able to ensure the woodland burial site is able to continue to operate.”

Durham city councillor Mark Wilkes welcomed the news.

He said: “There has been a lot of heartache and worry.

“It should not have taken this long but I am delighted that we will now be providing a dignified resting place for those residents who have waited so long for peace of mind.”