A CREMATORIUM planned in the North-East will be able to deal with larger than average coffins to reflect rising levels of obesity.
Wear Valley councillors have approved the crematorium at Coundon in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, after applicants Mercia Crematoria said that factors driving the demand for the new complex included the need to deal with larger than average coffins.
Mercia said that current cremator widths in the nearest crematoria at Durham and Darlington are 31 inches and 30 inches respectively, while in new Bishop Auckland building the width would be 43 inches.
Planners cited a letter of support for the crematorium from the Co-operative Funeral Service in County Durham, which noted that having a new crematorium in the area which takes account of the rising cases of outsized coffins would ease the stress on bereaved people.
Currently some cremations of obese remains may have to be carried out as far away as Nottingham, the letter said.
“Reports state that people are getting larger and this is affecting the health and funeral sectors,” said Kevin McAlister, North of England sector manager for the Co-op service. There are occasions when we have to look for another crematorium other than the one families will have chosen because of the larger size of coffin.”
Yesterday Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, said: “It is a medical fact that people are getting larger and, therefore, coffins are becoming larger.
“It is a very sensitive issue and causes difficulties, because people’s feelings are involved in all of this.
“We would welcome a new facility for the upgrading of existing crematoria which take the opportunity to install facilities for wider coffins to respond to changing needs.”
A spokesman for Mercia said: “The demand is for crematoria to have facilities for larger coffins.”
Mercia said that the new crematorium was also needed because of lack of cemetery space in churchyards and that the Darlington and Durham centres were working to capacity.
The new crematorium will be built on what is currently on open field.
The plans were opposed by a petition signed by more than 200 people whose concerns included health worries, increase in traffic and devaluation of property prices.
But planners said that a permit would be required for the crematorium which would ensure specified emission concentration limits.