The cost of burying the dead in Hammersmith and Fulham could surge as the borough runs out of cemetery spaces within 20 years, a council report has revealed.
The warning comes as support for a stalled Government proposal to allow old graves to be dug up and moved to make space for new coffins gains momentum as a way ease the capital's burial crisis.
Currently it costs £2,100 to bury a resident in H&F, more for a non-resident wanting to be buried in the borough's limited cemetery space.
The payment covers the burial space, digging fees and maintenance of the grave and the cemetery, brining in up to £490,000 this year in charges.
Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide and manage cemeteries for residents. But a review launched by the Town Hall's Cleaner and Greener scrutiny committee has indicated it will consider charging to look after graves, which is not a legal requirement.
The report says: "Withdrawing the grave maintenance service could present difficulties as the service is provided to many older residents who may not be able to afford to maintain the graves themselves. However, we will consider these charges as part of this review."
The review will make its recommendations in November.
Hammersmith and Fulham manges two sites in the borough - Fulham Palace Road and Margravine Cemetery – both closed cemeteries which have not had new burials for decades.
The report raises the prospect of re-opening them, a measure which will spark fierce debate between residents and the council.
"H&F will need to undertake a feasibility study to consider the possibility of bringing the two in-borough cemeteries back into use for burial purposes," the report confirmed.
Spaces for H&F residents are set aside at the 30-acre North Sheen and Mortlake Cemeteries in neighbouring Richmond, where there is enough capacity to last for two decades.
But the report, published on June 16, raises fears that an event such as a pandemic flu would "severely reduce" capacity there.
In conclusion the report states:
"While the issue of the disposal of the dead has been pressing in London for the last 150 years, it is now being considered an urgent issue.
"Concerns about access to burial facilities for our increasingly diverse communities, vandalism and unsafe memorials have continued to challenge planners."
Burial costs for residents and estimated time before burial land is full (years)
Hammersmith & Fulham - £2,100/ 20 years
Westminster - £1,570/ 30 years
Kensington and Chelsea - £2,580/ 25 years