Plans to run a more “commercial” operation at Cambridge crematorium, which could include the introduction of futuristic technologies, were approved yesterday.
A business plan calls for income from the sale of memorials to be increased and possible opening of a flower shop, café, and service for pets.
A “watching brief” will now be maintained over new methods of disposing of bodies, including freeze-drying and dissolving.
As the News exclusively revealed, these are being closely watched because of their environmental credentials and could be offered at the Huntingdon Road crematorium in future.
Cllr Tim Bick, the city council’s communities chief, said the facility needed to keep up with scientific progress and public expectations.
He said: “The provision of crematorium services is now a mixed market of public and private sector and in our own area a choice exists. I want to blend the best of public sector ethos and the best of private sector ideas.”
The service has made an annual profit of up to £276,000 over the last five years but at the moment only makes an average of £44 per cremation from memorials, compared to up to £244 in the private sector.
Cllr Bick said a bigger profit was needed for the crematorium to secure much-needed capital investment.
Speaking at a meeting of the community services scrutiny committee, he said: “We are only likely to win support if we are not only taking from the council budget but also paying into it.”
The council could purchase more land to provide additional parking or a pet cemetery.
Labour spokeswoman Cllr Lucy Walker said she was uncertain about services for animals, and the issue of memorials needed to be carefully considered.
She said: “I think we need to be very careful not to put people in a position where they feel they have to buy memorabilia.”
The technologies being considered include cryomation – where liquid nitrogen is used to chill the body to –96C before it is broken up – and resomation, in which the body is dissolved in a hot alkali solution.