A new United Synagogue cemetery in Bushey holding thousands of plots is to conduct its first funeral later this year, after a consecration service was held on Sunday – the first such occasion for half a century.

Those behind the multi-million pound Bushey New Cemetery, which was designed around natural features and materials, said its opening “represents a milestone for the Jewish community”.

If follows Sunday’s ceremony, led by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Dayan Menachem Gelley, Rosh of the London Beth Din, who walked the grounds and buried a Torah scroll as part of the consecration of the £8 million site.

The site would “provide many thousands of people with a fitting resting place for their loved ones,” said United Synagogue president Stephen Pack. “It will ensure that we continue to treat those who suffer bereavement in a dignified manner for many years.”

Chairman of the US Burial Society chairman Brian Markeson said the new cemetery had been “many years” in the making, and praised the United Synagogue’s “forward thinking team for creating an exceptional, modern development”.

The site’s landscaping has been constructed with “an environmentally-sensitive approach,” said US bosses, including “the creative use flora, fauna and water”.

Among the features are the prayer halls, which use “rammed earth” – highly compressed natural materials forming walls to create “a thermally massive building which are clad with timber internally”. This means that the halls will retain heat in the cold and stay cool in the summer.

Lali Virdee, US property services director, said the use of natural materials was “a fitting way that recognises the cycle of life”.