MOURNERS will see a £100 rise in crematorium fees this year if a £1.92million project to improve facilities in the city goes ahead.
The crematorium in Barrington Road has not been renovated in 50 years and needs to be updated in order to meet national standards and keep the site open.
Funeral director Ian Newman, of I.N. Newman Ltd, has been campaigning for improvements there for about 30 years.
He said: “We have the best facility in southern England. It’s staffed by some of the most caring people I have met, but the crematorium needs this money spent on it.
“It’s the most visited facility in the city and the principal consideration must be about people at the time they say goodbye to their loved ones.”
Mr Newman said the waiting room, chapel, toilets and car park at the crematorium all need updating.
When it was first built people tended to have services in local churches and just go to the crematorium for committal, but now services are usually held at the crematorium and it is not big enough.
“Last week I had two 200-people cremations, but the chapel is too small and only sits about 100 and the car park has about 50 spaces.
Everyone else has to park on the estate, which is unfair on them and on the estate.”
The improvements are being tied in with essential modifications that Salisbury City Council, which is responsible for running the crematorium, has to make to comply with national policy.
The Government has said mercury levels being released into the atmosphere by crematoria must be reduced by at least 50 per cent by the end of 2012/13 so the council needs to replace the cremators, which were last replaced in 1994, and install abatement equipment to reduce emissions or the crematorium could be forced to close.
City clerk Reg Williams said it is not an easy project as the building is physically not big enough for the new equipment so an extension cannot be avoided.
The city council has budgeted £1.2million for the work, but the projected costs are £1.926million and it will need to increase the fee to cover the shortfall. The fee in Salisbury is expected to rise from £495 to £595 in April, with a further rise of about £40 in 2012/13.
But the council’s officers say this is in line with other crematoria in the area as they all have to increase their fees substantially to finance these improvements.
Swindon crematorium increased its fee from £462 to £626 last year and it is expected to rise again this year. Mr Williams said: “It’s not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but it is in line with what’s happening at crematoria up and down the country.”
Mr Newman told the city council’s policy and resources committee at a meeting on Monday night: “I’m convinced this is the best thing you could spend your money on because of the facility you are offering as we bring people there who have had the most life changing experience.
If you’re going to do something which will benefit the citizens of this city, this is the most worthwhile thing you could do.”
The committee voted in favour of borrowing £500,000 from the Public Works Loan Board for the equipment and increasing fees, but the proposal must be approved by full council on January 24 before it can go ahead.