Longer lives lead to a drop in Preston burials

Preston Cemetery
Preston Cemetery
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The number of people being buried in Preston is falling, council figures revealed today.

Town Hall chiefs based their budget on there being 260 burials in 2010/11 but there were 228, bringing in £138,000.

Today, funeral directors said “personal choice” and people living longer had contributed to the decline.

Life expectancy was 75 years for men in 2007 and 79.9 years for women, among the lowest in the country, but up from 72-years-old in 1995.

The Greyfriars ward of Fulwood, along with Lea, are the two places where people live the longest.

Funeral director Matthew Bickerdike from Whalley and Sons in Ripon Street, Plungington, said longevity may have contributed to the fall.

He said: “It’s freedom of choice. We’re just here to cater for what people want.

“It’s probably about the same. I’ve not noticed any difference. We might do two a month.

“People enquire about the woodland burials but then not everybody always goes for them. It’s becoming more popular as time goes on but it’s certainly not the norm at the moment.”

According to NHS Central Lancashire, Preston’s population will reach 135,100 by 2020 - up by around 4,000 - with the greatest percentage rise in the 85 and over age group with a predicted increase of 32% or 700 people.

Martin Wootton, owner of Martin’s Funeral Directors in Tulketh Brow, Ashton, said: “I’ve not noticed a decline in burials, I’m finding it quite the reverse. If anything, I’ve noticed an increase.

“It could be geographical as well. People in more rural areas might be doing more burials.”

He said around 20% of the funerals he managed were burials.

Current council prices are £400 for an adult burial and £550 for a cremation.

The burial figures came to light in a “financial strategy” report studied at a meeting of the council’s cabinet last night.

It also showed that a “contingency fund” set aside while the crematorium was closed for a fortnight, was not needed.

The council expected to lose £72,000 in income while old cremators were replaced with new technology to reduce mercury emissions from tooth fillings.

The work, which started at the end of March and was made mandatory by the Government, took two weeks and cost £746,000.

But the council set aside the cash in case the Ribbleton facility, which hosts more than 30 services per week, was closed for up to six weeks.

In addition, more cremations were carried out during “an unusual” December and January when there were 50% more cremations than usual.

Future improvements will see the toilets and Garden of Remembrance refurbished.