The Federation of Synagogues was this week forced to reassure families of Jews buried at Rainham Cemetery in Essex about new non-Jewish burial plots being marketed there as investment opportunities.
It follows reports on Tuesday that Birmingham-based firm Harley Investments is offering 40 percent returns on plots at the East London cemetery, where 26,000 Jews are buried.
The new plots are on a 22 acre plot of land adjoining Rainham Cemetery which was sold by the Federation for £8 million less than two months ago, but the Orthodox organisation – many of whose members join for burial rights – said the land was now nothing to do with them.
“The Federation completed the sale of the unused land adjacent to the Rainham Cemetery in August 2016,” Federation trustees said in a statement.
They confirmed that they had “no knowledge of, or contractual relations with, either Harley Investments and/or the individuals named as their Directors,” adding: “The Federation would like to reassure all relatives of persons buried in Rainham Cemetery that there has been no sale of the Rainham Cemetery, which remains and will remain in the continued ownership of the Federation.”
In its marketing material, Harley Investments says: “A very rare opportunity has arisen to purchase burial plots in London’s Rainham Cemetery, which is being extended to accommodate high demand for burial plots in Greater London.”
It says the price of burial plots had “increased by 30 percent this year alone” before offering investors the chance to buy four plots at £2,400 per plot, with a “40 percent return within 24 months,” adding that the investment had a “clearly defined exit strategy”.
The old Rainham Cemetery opened in 1902, but with just three acres it filled fast, as London’s population grew. The current cemetery opened in 1936 on a 106 acre site, with room for 50,000 plots, but only 26,000 were filled.
The Federation said the 22 acre plot, located on the western side of the site, was “a surplus” and put it up for sale in 2014. It finally sold in August for £8.3 million, and came with planning permission for use as a cemetery. It is understood that the new owners intend to call it Eastern London Cemetery.