TODAY marks the final severance of Bretby Crematorium from its taxpaying public.
East Staffordshire Borough Council — as the leading authority — has finally dissolved its contact with the Geary Lane site after 36 years, marking the end of a long saga which involved thousands of residents from across Burton and South Derbyshire.
The crematorium’s joint committee, which included members of both councils, is now no more after today’s official dissolution. The reins have now been officially handed to Midlands Co-operative Society.
Rumours of a sell-off first came to light in March 2010 when both East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire councils, who managed the centre via the joint committee, said they had received ‘expressions of interest’ which they were ‘duty bound’ to investigate.
The potential privatisation announcement came just months after the councils spent more than £850,000 on an upgrade, and, in June, consultation documents appeared in funeral homes asking the public’s opinion.
The story even reached Australia when Brenda and Anthony King, who emigrated from Burton, expressed concern that relatives’ burial plots would be disturbed if the grounds were altered.
It wasn’t until February 2011 when the crematorium’s joint committee met privately to discuss the ‘disposal of asset’ that it was revealed four companies were vying for the site.
A protest was also held outside the site where councillors were handed campaign literature before attending the joint committee meeting.
Councillor Richard Grosvenor and chief executive Andy O’Brien then held a meeting with the Mail to finally reveal their plans, officially naming Midland Co-op as the preferred bidder at a price of £8 million.
The company would also spend £250,000 on the site, without altering the grounds and keeping charges the same.
They later added that the company would not be allowed to monopolise funeral services.
However, information finally being in the open was not enough to deter more than 1,000 signatures being added to a petition to stop the sale.
Despite protestors’ best efforts, the crematorium was sold in April for £7.6 million.
The councils took a £400,000 reduc- tion on the original asking price to ensure the Co-op capped its prices for the next four years.
To try to allay fears over the purchase, Paul Webb, head of funerals at Midlands Co-operative, held three public meetings, saying that the funeral company would spend £250,000 revamping the car park and driveway, as well as the book of remembrance room, decor for the buildings and chapels, and the floral tributes area.
The crematorium opened in 1975 and was managed by the joint committee until today.