Parker praises progress as region’s first crematorium nears completion

Construction underway for the melrose crematorium.
Construction underway for the melrose crematorium.

THE region’s first crematorium will begin operations in mid-November with construction running ahead of schedule.

And the operations director of the company behind the development revealed he has been inundated with enquiries from funeral directors and ministers who are keen to see the £2.6million project, next to Wairds Cemetery in the lee of the Eildon Hills, completed.

“That response has been most heartening,” said Adrian Britton of Briston-based Westerleigh, the UK’s second largest crematorium operator.

“It is also difficult to escape the conclusion that this is one of the most beautiful settings imaginable for a crematorium.”

It was the landscape surrounding Westerleigh’s chosen location – within the Eildon Hills National Scenic Area – that was cited by most of the 150 Borderers who objected to the proposals when they were submitted for planning consent in 2009.

Despite that dissent, the planning committee of Scottish Borders Council voted eight-two to give the project the go-ahead in November of that year.

There was then a protracted delay, caused by an ownership dispute over land which SBC insisted must be planted out to reduce the visual impact of the crematorium.

But that wrangle was resolved earlier this year and Earlston-based Border Construction won the tender to build the facility which will have a roof height of 7.5m and a chimney stack extending to 8m. The building will contain an 84-seat chapel with standing room for 100 outside. A mixture of natural stone and timber will be used and there will be 25 on-site parking spaces with room for a further 43 cars when the verge of the Boglie Burn road, which will provide access to the site, is redeveloped.

Construction has now reached first floor level and, next month, a specially-commissioned cremator – comprising the actual cremation chambers with flue system and costing £600,000 – is due to be assembled on site.

Mr Britton said that Crematoria Management Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Westerleigh, had applied for a special permit to use this equipment to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The application contains a description of the effects of the emissions from the installation on the environment and human health.

Mr Britain said SEPA had been closely involved in the design of the cremator and he envisaged no adverse environmental impact.

“Not only will SEPA carry out a series of random inspections, but a monitoring print-out of emissions from all cremations will be sent to SEPA every six months,” said Mr Britton.

SBC leader and local Melrose councillor David Parker told us: “I am delighted that the long- awaited Borders crematorium is now well under construction and am extremely pleased at the good progress being made with the project.

“It is clear already that the site is discreet and that the finished development will be an asset to the Borders, and will sit very well in a beautiful setting.

“This is a much-needed facility and will end the trauma that many Borders families have to endure when travelling outwith our region to say farewell to loved ones.”

Mr Britton, who is due to visit the site today, revealed that the Melrose facility would host an open day next summer.

He expects annual cremations of 500 to rise to 900 within 10 years of operation.