Epsom Cemetery needs to be extended and the council might have to issue a compulsory purchase order, according to officers.

A decision on whether to put together a planning application for an extension and to authorise the use of compulsory purchase powers will be made at the borough council’s Strategy and Resources Committee on April 17.

At the current rate, the cemetery will run out of space for lawn graves by spring 2019.

The council has identified 3.69 acres of land next to the cemetery currently used for grazing horses that could be bought.

But negotiations with the landowner have been faltering, with current discussions having been going on for more than a year.

The two parties are unable to agree on how to value the land, meaning compulsory purchase powers are being considered to meet the borough’s need for burial space.

Council officers expected the land to have an “open market value”, because it is being used for grazing, but the owner wants it to be valued as a commercial graveyard.

Compulsory purchases should only be used as a last resort, and have to be approved by central government.

But it might still be too late to meet demand for grave space; it is estimated the process could take up to 18 months, missing the spring 2019 breaking point.

However, in their report, officers mention it could still be possible to buy the land without an order.

The cemetery is expected to bring in £451,000 in the 2018/19 financial year, and the chief finance officer said the extension is “an important project to safeguard this level of income for future years”.

A council spokesman said: "Epsom cemetery is a community facility that does not make a profit.

"The income generated pays for the ongoing maintenance of the cemetery and the two closed churchyards which as the local authority we are responsible.

"Areas in the current cemetery are already closed as the cemetery approaches capacity.  

"The extension to the cemetery is necessary as a burial ground for the local community."