Northumberland’s only crematorium is set to reopen next week, ten months after it was seriously damaged by fire.
Blyth Crematorium was badly damaged on March 12 when a fire broke out, which was thought to be cause by the transfer of heat from machinery and flues into the roof.
After extensive internal and external work, the crematorium on Cowpen Road will be fully operational and re-opened for services on Monday, December 7.
County Council Civic Head Kath Nisbet said: “The fire was a very upsetting and serious situation for all of us, but especially so for the staff who work at the crematorium and for all the bereaved families who had services booked in.
“I would like to thank the funeral director and neighbouring authorities who stepped in at very short notice to help us and bereaved families, we are overwhelmed by the support we were given and appreciate the help we were given at the time.
“Getting the crematorium up and running again has been our number one priority and due to the extent of the damage, it has taken a coordinated effort by council officers and construction partners to enable us to be here today.
“In additional to putting right the damage caused by the fire we have also sought to improve facilities for the public and for funeral directors.
“The car parking provision has been doubled, the roads resurfaced and signage improved.
“We have retained the standard 20 minute chapel service time but have extended chapel and reception time from 30 to 45 minutes so people do not feel like they are being rushed.
“The newly landscaped garden of tranquillity offers a pre and post service seating area and somewhere for quiet reception and it is stunning.
“We are confident that the facility is future proofed.”
The cost of the repairs, which are still being finalised, could be in excess of £1m, but will be covered by insurance.
Following the repairs, the crematorium now has a new roof, internal equipment and there is a new garden of tranquillity outside. There is also extra car parking outside.
Since the incident, cremations have had to be carried out at neighbouring local authorities.
Local ward member Coun Susan Davey said: “It’s obviously been of concern locally and across the county that Northumberland’s only crematorium has been out of action for several months.
“We understand this has been an emotional issue for many people but I’m pleased that families will once again be able to use their local crematorium and the works have been carried out to a very high standard.”
Gary Davis, managing director of Team Build Construction, the main contractor appointed post-fire, said: “Our technical expertise and collaborative approach worked extremely well, and we fitted seamlessly with Northumberland County Council and others stakeholders involved to complete the project.
“Although the fire was very unfortunate it did allow us to add significant improvements that everyone can now benefit from for many years to come.”