An area of the Higher Cemetery in Bideford could be set aside for Muslim graves if councillors give their approval.

An overview of Bideford Cemetery showing where potential Muslim burial sites could be placed. Picture: TDCAn overview of Bideford Cemetery showing where potential Muslim burial sites could be placed. Picture: TDC

The community and resources committee of Torridge District Council is being recommended on Monday (June 10) to approve in principle the use a dedicated area in the cemetery for those of Islamic faith.

It follows the council's cemetery team having received an enquiry by the family of an elderly member of the Islamic community as to what arrangements the council has in place to accommodate Muslim burials in the district.

No formal application for a grave space has been made, but the council currently has no clear provision.

Councillors will be told that arrangements do need to be considered and agreed to enable the cemetery team to respond to future requests in a clear and culturally appropriate manner.

The nearest cemetery that can accommodate Islamic burials is in Exeter, according to a report to the council.

It says the only requirement of the family who had the request at this stage is the stipulation the grave must be excavated so the deceased can be laid to rest facing Mecca.

The report of Steve Hearse, the strategic manager for resources for TDC, said: "The cemetery at Bideford currently has sufficient space for future requirements.

"The typical number of burials each year would indicate that we have capacity until circa 2050.

"There is space available within the overall grounds at Bideford to accommodate dedicated areas for the burial needs of specific faith groups, but we suggest use is limited to the needs of residents of the district to manage the overall space effectively.

"We understand from enquires we have conducted locally that North Devon Council do not have a dedicated area within their cemeteries for particular faith groups.

"We also understand the nearest cemetery facility that can accommodate the Islamic community is based in Exeter.

The report adds that a similar area could be provided for the Jewish community lower down on the eastern side of the cemetery, if requested, and that as the graveyards are not consecrated, they are not set aside for the exclusive use by the Christian community.

It adds: "The current burial procedures are in need of updating to reflect the needs of the community. Consideration is required for the provision of burial space within the District for members of Islamic and other faiths.

"Failure to accommodate members of the Islamic community or other faith groups that seek these particular requirements may be seen as discriminatory and could potentially damage the reputation of the authority."