Woodland Burial Service Coming to Northern Ireland
The Trust's Nigel McKinney (Left) with Down to Earth's Gill McNeill and James Orr.

Woodland Burial Service Coming to Northern Ireland

11 August 2014

The Trust is helping a ‘Community Shares’ project get off the ground with Down to Earth NI hoping to become Northern Ireland’s first woodland burial service.

A community benefit society, Down to Earth NI is setting out as a community enterprise and selling shares in the business that will allow local people to share in this innovative enterprise.

Community shares are a unique form of share called “withdrawable share” which can be issued by co-operatives and community benefit societies, with more than 120 successful community share offers having been made in the United Kingdom since 2009.

The Building Change Trust, as part of their work in Social Finance, has commissioned Co-Operative Alternatives to develop a community shares programmes in Northern Ireland.

Down to Earth (NI) will launch a share offer soon enabling members to join the society.

Shareholders will become members of the community benefit society with an equal vote regardless of the shareholding allowing them to vote at the Annual General Meeting, stand for elections to the Board of Directors and be involved in the running of the business.

An asset lock ensures money invested is only used for the purpose of the business, and therefore reinvested back into the local community, for local benefit.

Already popular in the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, woodland burial leaves a long lasting positive legacy for the environment as well as providing a cost-effective and permanent alternative to traditional funerals, cemeteries and graveyards.

Down to Earth (NI) is currently gathering support and have organised pledge events around Northern Ireland.  The support has been very encouraging and many have already pledged an amount of money which will enable the society to purchase the land.

Although the pledge is not legally binding at this stage, pledges are a way to demonstrate a serious intention for investing in Down to Earth NI when the community shares offer will be launched in September.

Gill McNeill and James Orr, Down to Earth (NI) said "Down to Earth (NI) is open to everyone; those with faith and those with no faith. It is about the community becoming custodians of the environment for future generations".

"In the longer term Down to Earth (NI) will create jobs, not only for the manufacture of caskets but locally-grown, in-season flowers and ongoing tree planting for coppicing. The latter will be utilised in the production of handmade caskets, hazel hurdles and willow fencing”.

The next pledge event will be on the 23rd August in Crawfordsburn Country Park details on their website.

Nigel McKinney, Building Change Trust, Director of Operations, said: “The Building Change Trust is committed to developing and testing out new forms of Social Finance and encouraging Social Innovation in Northern Ireland.

“With this in mind, we are really excited to be pledging £800 directly into this innovative project.

“Seeing the success in the rest of the UK, we feel this type of community buy-in and investment could really take off”.

Click here to find out more about Community Shares, and the Trust's other work in Social Finance.