A pounds 75,000 study for the Institute of Burial and Cremation Administration found that as long as a period of time - perhaps 75 or 100 years - was allowed to elapse, then a majority would not object.
The finding was welcomed by burial and cremation officials who had feared that public sensitivities would stand in the way of a "sensible solution" to the problem, which has already left three London boroughs without any burial space in existing cemeteries. Ian Hussein, the institute's national secretary, said: "It isn't just about running out of space. Many authorities can find land elsewhere, but people don't want to travel further. They want to be able to visit the grave."
The research, carried out by the University of York's Cemetery Research Group, was presented yesterday to 250 delegates who work in cemeteries and crematoria at the institute's annual conference in Swansea.
About 1,600 people in London, Nottingham, Glasgow and Sunderland had been asked for their opinion. Graves would be opened up with families' permission or only when they had been left for a long time. Remaining bones would be placed in caskets and reinterred further down, freeing the space above for other burials. A Home Office licence is required before bones are disturbed.
The institute's "corporate arm", the Confederation of Burial Authorities, will now prepare a policy paper to present to the Government.