A comprehensive £3.4million modernisation of St Helens Crematorium can now go ahead as a report to St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet is approved.
The announcement comes shortly after the council’s Bereavement Service team was recognised at a national level, securing a Silver in the nationwide Cemetery of the Year Awards, beating all other applicants but one.
The Council wants to build on this success and achievements of the service with a multi-million-pound investment in the fabric of the building and completely revitalised facilities to a modern standard now approved by Cabinet.
The current facilities, while cherished by the community need modernisation to meet the needs of residents and changing circumstances, and to allow the council to expand the range of services that can be offered to bereaved families.
The ambition for the project is a full refurbishment of the Crematorium building, in a cohesive, modern and respectful style.
Among the improvements are plans to renovate and reinstate the small chapel to allow smaller, more intimate services to take place.
The main chapel will also see its layout changed, with the catafalque, or platform on which the coffin rests during the service, moved more appropriately to the front and centre of the ceremony room, rather than the left wall.
Waiting rooms and supporting facilities would also be replaced to a modern standard.
This week’s report to Cabinet details additional costs of £1.8m due to greater scope in the scheme, and much needed structural repair and condition works required in the main chapel gable, roof and parapets.
The council also regularly negotiates with local funeral directors to provide residents with an affordable funeral through its Partnership Funeral Service offer, available to all residents in the borough regardless of income.
Work is expected to start early in the new year and will take place outside of operational hours to ensure that services can continue to be provided to the public. This limited working arrangement will mean that the contract will be over a longer period.
Councillor Andy Bowden, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said:
“St Helens Cemetery and Crematorium are among our greatest assets, from the building’s striking structure and heritage, with its many original features including the beautiful ‘dalle de verre’ stained glass, to its green and picturesque, well-maintained grounds, and the recent national recognition is external validation of the valued and much loved service we provide in the Borough
“However, the Crematorium building is in desperate need of modernisation throughout. The importance of our Bereavement Services has never been in such sharp focus as during the coronavirus pandemic, and they need now more than ever to receive as much support and investment as we can give, so that they can continue to provide meaningful and dignified services in a safe, suitable and fit-for-purpose setting.
“This major investment represents our faith in the future of the Crematorium, and our aspiration to enhance the caring service provided to the bereaved and their families in the most difficult times.”