Preston Crematorium to shut for over two weeks for repairs

Preston Crematorium will temporarily close from next week for repairs to one of its two furnaces.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 2:19 am

The site will be shut from 19th August until 5th September, with cremations set to resume the next day, the Lancashire Post can reveal.

The closure follows recent urgent repair work undertaken on the other furnace - or cremator - at the Preston City Council-run facility on Longridge Road.

Routine maintenance had identified that the brick chamber within the structure was at the point of collapse - and it was ordered to be taken out of service immediately to avoid “catastrophic damage”, according to papers to be presented to a meeting of the authority's cabinet on Wednesday.

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Preston Crematorium will be closed for just over a fortnight (image: Google)

While the necessary work on that furnace was able to be carried out while the second one remained in operation, the entire crematorium will be forced to close to allow the same repairs to be undertaken to the sister cremator.

Funeral directors have been advised of the need to make alternative arrangements for families booking cremations during the closure period. All of the Preston-based firms contacted by the Post said that they had been given sufficient notice to avoid scheduling services while the site is out of use - meaning that none are having to be moved or rearranged.

The nearest alternative crematoria are a privately-run facility at Charnock Richard and a Fylde Council-operated site in Lytham. There are also crematoria in Blackburn and Burscough.

The furnaces at Preston Crematorium were due to be “re-lined” this year - a process carried out every five years to ensure that they can continue to withstand the 900 degree centigrade temperatures reached - and often exceeded - when they are in operation.

The entrance to Preston Crematorium on Longridge Road (image: Google)

The total cost of the repairs to both furnaces will be just under £87,000, to be funded from the council's cemetery and crematorium reserve - a pot of money set aside for such projects.

Cabinet members will be told that the works will ensure that Preston Crematorium “is safe and... remains fit for purpose, [providing] value for money with regard to future and ongoing maintenance costs”.

The facility opened back in 1962 and the current furnaces were installed in 2012, when they were reduced in number from three to two. That change generated sufficient space for additional gas filtration equipment to be installed in order to meet new air quality legislation at the time.

However, it also allowed for one of the cremators to be increased in size to accommodate larger coffins which were then becoming more common.

The latest repairs are being carried out by Facultatieve Technologies Limited, a company that replaced the original 1960s cremators in 1993 under its then guise of Evans Universal. The firm has been involved with the maintenance of the furnaces almost ever since - and also installed the two current cremators nine years ago.

The company was asked to carry out the repairs on the first furnace earlier this summer without having to competitively bid for the work. The city council says that route was selected because of the urgency of the job and to “minimise any major disruption” to ceremonies that were already scheduled.

Cabinet members will be asked to retrospectively approve that decision and also to authorise the chief executive to sign a waiver for the work due to begin next week on the second furnace, so that, too, can be carried out by Facultatieve Technologies.

Papers to be presented to the meeting note that the likelihood of a legal challenge from another firm to the so-called “direct award” of the work is low. Only Facultatieve Technologies has bid for the maintenance work at the site for the last 20 years.

The firm has an “established, long-standing and enhanced knowledge of the equipment and the operational needs of the crematorium,” the documents add.

In a statement after the cabinet meeting, Cllr Carol Henshaw, cabinet member for climate change, said: “The re-lining of the cremators is required every few years to ensure the continued operation of the facility to the highest standard.

“Cabinet was requested to approve moving the funds set aside in reserve for this cyclical maintenance into budgets for the current year, to enable this essential work to be carried out by specialist contractors.

“The facility will be closed for the shortest time possible in order to minimise the impact upon service users.”

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