A plan to undertake major improvements to Southend’s crematorium have been given the green light by council leaders.
The work that will include rebuilding the chimney, replacing three cremators, building a new multi-faith viewing room and making repairs is set to cost the council £2.7million.
It comes after a council assessment into the condition of the building found a series of structural problems and issues with roofing, which is more than 20 years old.
During a cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon council leaders voted in favour of the works, rejecting alternatives which included a proposal to close it down and rebuild as a cost of £8.5million.
Councillor Carole Mulroney said: “If members have gone through the condition survey, they will understand why this is so important.
“I am sure the cabinet agrees we as an authority should maintain our ability to assist our residents as compassionately and safely as we can when they are most in need of support.
“This is also the opportunity to explore new innovative services for all faiths, which are also better environmentally.
“The cost is not cheap but I believe it is a most valuable service we provide and should continue to provide with the most up to date equipment we possibly can.”
Another alternative considered by the cabinet would have been closing it down completely but a report noted this “is likely to cause distress to residents during a difficult time” and “impact on the council’s ability to respond to some civil emergencies”.
Leader of the council, Cllr Ian Gilbert said: “Sadly I’ve had to attend several funerals there as I am sure many of us have and you realise just how much that environment means to people. Sadly some of people’s most important, serious and solemn times will be spent there.”
The work will also include resurfacing the car park at the crematorium and the council will investigate the practicality of changing from gas to electric cremators.
The existing crematorium was constructed in 1953, with some of the major equipment last replaced in 2000, and some in 2010.