SUPER-sized ovens will be installed at Pleasington Crem-atorium to cope with the growing number of overweight bodies in a £1million project.
Town hall officers said the action was being taken after crematorium staff reported an increase in coffins too large and heavy to fit inside the existing burners.
The new development will incorporate technology to reduce the amount of deadly mercury pumped out into the atmosphere when teeth fillings are incinerated.
There will also be work to create secure cold storage for the first time at the venue, for occasions when cremations take place the day after a ceremony.
The move has been welcomed by funeral directors and councillors for helping to ease the grieving process for families because they will not have to leave the county for a cremation.
At present, funeral directors have to arrange for people from Blackburn and Darwen to be cremated around 30 miles away in Manchester if their coffin is wider than 35 inches or weighs more than 25 stone.
The new development is set to allow for coffins of up to 44 inches wide.
Councillor Dave Smith, lead member for environmental improvement and sustainability, said: "The cremators at Pleasington Crematorium are after many years service, in need of refurbishment and with the introduction of new Government guidelines on emissions will also need to have new equipment installed.
"As a result the best way to address this is to replace the system that is currently there.”
Harry Gibbs, of Blackburn Funeral Services in Mill Hill, said he had noticed a gradual increase in the size of coffins over the years.
He said: “The maximum width the cremators at Pleasington can take is 35ins, so the maximum width of the deceased person is 33ins.
“We estimate the weight of the bodies when they are in the mortuary and I think there is a 25 stone-limit, but that will increase with the new cremators, which are also more efficient.
“Sometimes we have to arrange for coffins to go to a crematorium in Manchester, where they are able to take larger coffins.
“There is a lot of health and safety to consider. You have to think about the staff at the crematorium and the funeral directors as well.
“If they can increase the size of the cremators, making them more efficient and safe, then it is very much welcomed.
“It will make our job a lot easier, but it will also be better for bereaved families because they will know they will not have to travel to Manchester for a cremation.”
Council chiefs said the two existing ovens were scheduled to be updated because they were ‘nearing the end of their lives’.
The work will meet the Government’s deadline of 2012 for crematoriums to reduce the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere.
Occasionally, crematorium staff ask bereaved families if they can ‘hold over’ a coffin until the next day to save money on heating the ovens.
However, there is currently no secure, cold storage area for this to take place at Pleasington.
The new development will see the existing building refurbished and extended into green belt land, so it is large enough to house a storage area and any extra equipment.
Coun Smith said it made sense to carry out the work at the same time to minimise disruption to services and cost.
He said: "While work takes place we will take the opportunity to update the chapel at a minimal cost so families can say goodbye to loved ones in a dignified and pleasant environment."
Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Executive Board approved a tender exercise for the provision of the two new cremators and a mercury abatement plant at a meeting this month.
Under the scheme, the work will be completed by the end of next year.