Just 20 people have attended public surgeries designed to allay fears over the sale of Bretby Crematorium to a private company, it has been claimed — despite fierce opposition to the deal beforehand.
Three surgeries have been held by Midlands Co-operative Society which has recently purchased the Geary Lane site from joint owners East Staffordshire Borough and South Derbyshire District Councils for £8 million.
In opposition to the then proposed selloff, campaigners attended a staged protest outside the site organised by South Derbyshire Labour members and supporters, who also set up a petition which attracted more than 4,000 signatures.
However, Paul Webb, head of funerals at the Co-op, claimed at the final surgery yesterday that fewer than 20 people had attended the meetings.
He said: “From our point of view this is an encouraging number as it means that people are comfortable with the situation.
“Many of the people I have met during these surgeries have similar concerns — for example, that their husband or wife’s ashes are buried in the crematorium grounds, and they want to know that nothing will change and they can still visit them whenever they want.
“I feel we have put their minds at rest and they have left the meetings happier.” The Mail recently revealed a leaked document detailing other companies which had put in a bid for ownership of the crematorium.
The Co-op’s £8 million winning bid was almost double that of the next highest offer of £4.15 million from Westerleigh.
The Co-operative, which increased its bid from an original offer of £7.75 million, will pay the sum in deferred payments over five years.
It will spend £250,000 on revamping the car park and driveway of the crematorium, as well as the book of remembrance room, decor for the buildings and chapels and the floral tributes area.
Another meeting will be held for private funeral directors and members of the clergy, who have expressed concerns over a possible Co-op monopoly on funeral services.
A funeral director and a member of another crematorium, both Derby-based, who attended yesterday’s meeting at Sharpe’s Pottery Museum, in West Street, Swadlincote, were pleased they had come along, saying: “We can continue to work together and are quite happy with how things are running.”