Work is underway on the major remodeling of South Shields Crematorium, which will see chapel area extended into the existing courtyard.
The enlarged chapel will help to cater for larger funerals by increasing capacity by a total of 126 – providing seating for more than 200 visitors as well as additional standing space.
Refurbishment work started in January. Now, as the project enters the next phase, South Tyneside Council said a complete closure of the crematorium is required for up to three months, starting from Monday, May 16.
The council said it is also taking advantage of the planned closure to upgrade its cremators, which officers say are almost 25 years old and in need of replacement.
The new wider cremators will be able to accommodate larger coffins, which can only be catered for at venues outside the borough.
Council chiefs said they are also more energy efficient and are expected to significantly reduce carbon emissions from around 274 tonnes to 32 tonnes per year.
Associated computer systems will also be upgraded.
The council said it will not be possible to hold cremations at the crematorium during the closure and the authority’s Bereavement Team said it is working closely with funeral directors to support families in making alternative arrangements over this period.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: “Though the refurbishment works are progressing well, the crematorium does need to closure for the next part of the scheme. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable given the nature of the works taking place.
“Furthermore, the cremators are aging and need to be replaced. Upgrading the cremators now while the crematorium is already scheduled to close for the chapel extension will help to minimise the impact on residents. It will also avoid the risk of the equipment failing in the future which in turn would lead to a sudden closure and cause unnecessary distress for bereaved families.
“We understand this will cause some disruption and our Bereavement Team are working closely with funeral directors to accommodate families’ needs wherever possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused during the closure period.
“As the only crematorium to serve South Tyneside, it is important that the building is fit for purpose.
“Once the improvements are complete, we will be able to offer a more modern, efficient facility that is also able to accommodate larger funerals. The work we are doing helps us to deliver on our commitment to improve the crematorium so we can provide the best services possible to our residents in their time of need.”
Cremations are scheduled to resume in August, with the chapel extension project due to be fully completed in the autumn. The crematorium grounds, memorial gardens and Chapel of Remembrance and office will remain open during the works.
For further information about the improvements to South Shields Crematorium contact the Council’s Bereavement Services on (0191) 427 3190 or visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk