THE Scottish Borders’ first crematorium will begin operations in mid-November with construction running ahead of schedule.
It will become the only crematorium between Edinburgh and Blyth.
The operations director of the company behind the development also 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 at Melrose, completed.
“That response has been most heartening,” said Adrian Britton of Bristol-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 – 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 (SBC) voted eight-two to give the project the go-ahead in November of that year.
There was then a delay because of a dispute over land which SBC insisted must be planted out to reduce the visual impact of the crematorium.
That was resolved earlier this year and Earlston-based Border Construction won the tender to build the facility.
The building will contain an 84-seat chapel with standing room for 100 outside. There will be 25 on-site parking spaces with room for a further 43 cars when the verge of the Boglie Burn access road, 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.
Crematoria Management Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Westerleigh, has applied for a special permit to use this equipment to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). SEPA has been closely involved in the design of the cremator and Westerleigh envisage 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 David Parker said: “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 said they expected annual cremations of 500 to rise to 900 within 10 years of operation.