Funerals face delays as Mortonhall crematorium is closed until next year

Mortonhall Crematorium. Picture; Phil Wilkinson
Mortonhall Crematorium. Picture; Phil Wilkinson
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BEREAVED families could face a wait of up to three weeks for funerals this winter after it was confirmed Mortonhall crematorium is to stay shut into next year.

The council-run crematorium closed in late May for urgent repairs and improvements following a fire in 2015. The work, estimated at £2 million, was due to take five months, with the crematorium scheduled to reopen in November.

But now the council has admitted it will not be back in operation until January.

And funeral directors have warned of lengthening delays in organising funerals over the winter.

Mortonhall carries out more than 2500 cremations each year. During the closure, families have been diverted mostly to Warriston, Seafield or West Lothian crematoria.

But Mark Porteous, president of the Scottish Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors, said the pressure on capacity had already meant longer waits for funerals.

He said: “Because of the closure of Mortonhall funerals are taking longer. It is not uncommon for funerals to be 10-14 days after someone has died and it is likely to get worse over the winter.

“Around the Christmas period, some families could be waiting two to three weeks for a service, which is distressing.”

Mr Porteous said there had been very little communication from the council on when Mortonhall would re-open.

He said families were being inconvenienced. “It can be very upsetting for families not to be able to use the same crematorium they had used in the past for a previous family funeral.”

And he said there was also an economic effect on both the council, which was losing revenue from the crematorium, and nearby hotels.

“The impact on local businesses and hoteliers within the surrounding area must be huge as many families use local venues for catering after the funeral.

“As a small business owner paying high business rates and a council tax payer I am concerned the loss in revenue to the city must be well over seven figures, never mind the actual costs of the repairs.”

City council environment convener Lesley Hinds said the facilities at Mortonhall were in urgent need of upgrading and renewal following the fire last year.

She said: “Given the extent of the works there was no other option other than to close the crematorium during the refurbishment programme.

“It was originally planned to have the work completed by the end of November or early December, but due to lead-in times for some of the more specialist equipment the refurbishment work will be finished by the end of January 2017.”

Cllr Hinds apologised for any inconvenience, but she added: “We are working with the contractor to see if we can bring forward the opening of the chapel for funeral services and people are still able to have ashes interred at Mortonhall even while the crematorium is closed.”