FAMILIES could be asked to sell back their burial plots as a response to chronic capacity problems at Bicester's only cemetery.

Just two child burial plots are among the 36 remaining spaces behind St Edburg’s Church after a two-decade steady decline.

Bicester Town Council is yet to secure a site for another burial ground said it was 'not for want of trying'.

Plans are in place to build another cemetery within the 6,000-home eco town on the north-western edge of the Bicester, but there are fears this will not be ready before the town council site is full.

With time running out, councillors have raised the possibility of buying back reserved plots.

Councillor Debbie Pickford, who says she probably knows every inch of the cemetery after campaigning for a new site for more than 15 years, said: "For the last 10 or 15 years I have been saying what are we going to do when it closes, because it will close one day and that is the unfortunate thing.

"We have had 20 years' warning: what we have got to do is push for more space, but unfortunately it is tied up with developers at the moment."

The existing cemetery has about 4,475 burial and cremation plots in total, but there are now just 36 burial plots and 23 cremation plots left.

Reservations were halted at the site in 2006 and plans for the new site at Bicester's eco town were put forward more than eight years ago.

Lead developers of the eco town A2Dominion said an agreement was in place to provide land for a burial ground free of charge to the town council.

Project director Steve Hornblow added: "Land has been allocated for a future burial ground north of the railway at NW Bicester, however we are still in progress of completing the necessary legal agreement and planning application with the district and county council."

Bicester Town Council added that the land was yet to be handed over by developers and wouldn't be until the development was 'at a more advanced stage', but it was unable to give a specific timescale.

The town council's chief officer Sam Shippen said: "Council officers are reviewing the number of purchased but unused spaces and a report will go to environment committee in June.

"The next stage for Bicester Town Council is to assess the current cemetery to identify the limited amount of additional space and continue to work with our colleagues at Cherwell District Council and the developer at NW Bicester to secure a suitable provision for a new burial ground.

"Both of these we are currently doing."

Ms Pickford said she did worry the cemetery would close before a new site is ready and added that reserved plots had been bought back by the council previously with little response.

She added: "There is no harm trying to get some back but I don't think there will be many.

"Anyone that does have a plot that they no longer think they will use, we would be very willing to buy it back.

"We will also endeavour to do everything we can to find a plot if needed."

The council also said there was limited scope to provide additional space by removing benches or planted areas.