The man behind the buyout of Bretby Crematorium has now come forward to try and allay people’s fears over the £7.6 million deal.
Paul Webb, head of funerals at Midlands Co-operative, held the first of three public meetings yesterday to address any concerns those connected with the Geary Lane site may have after it was sold to the private company by council bosses last month.
The crematorium was jointly owned by East Staffordshire Borough and South Derbyshire District councils, but after offers of a purchase were made, a deal was struck with Midland Co-operative.
The private business wanted to buy the crematorium to give the company a more ‘complete package’ as it also owns a floral service and masonry business.
The funeral company will now spend £250,000 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.
However, while concerns were raised by the controversial sale, the Co-op remained silent, with Mr Webb saying: “The agreement we had is that we wouldn’t be commenting with any views or opinions because the whole issue needed to be handled sensitively. We felt that fighting talk wasn’t appropriate and we didn’t want a slanging match so we maintained a modest silence. I am now urging members of the public to come along and talk to me.”
Mr Webb, who has been in the funeral business for 30 years, wanted to stop any concerns about trees being felled, or grounds being disturbed, saying to a resident whose husband is buried in the grounds that nothing will be changed.
Pauline Shelley was the first to attend the meeting as she wanted assurance that her ashes would be buried with her husband under their silver birch tree when she dies.
Mr Webb told her: “You should have no worries whatsoever. If it is in your will that that is your request then that will be carried out. You have my assurance.” Concerns that the only two independent funeral directors in the area would face higher costs was quashed, with Mr Webb saying: “Over the next few days we are inviting private funeral directors to a meeting. They have no reason to worry but as with the public, I would like them to hear that from me. I want to set the record straight.
“We live by the principal that we are open, honest, fair and transparent.” However, with fees, Mr Webb was unable to guess the financial situation in four years time when the cap on prices ends, but said: “We are under agreement and will live up to that agreement.
“We are delighted at the sale. We want to improve and make it a better experience for those using the crematorium.”
The next two meetings will take place at the crematorium on Tuesday, from 6pm to 8pm, and at Sharpe’s Pottery Museum, on Wednesday, May 18, from 9am to 1pm.