Mortonhall crematorium '˜won't reopen until March'

OVER-RUNNING repairs and improvement works at Edinburgh's Mortonhall crematorium mean it is to stay shut for another two months.

Saturday, 14th January 2017, 9:01 am
Updated Saturday, 14th January 2017, 9:07 am
Mortonhall Crematorium will not reopen until March. Picture: Hemedia

The council-run crematorium, already closed since May, was originally due to reopen in November, but in October the council gave a revised date of this month. And now it has admitted cremations at Mortonhall will not restart until March.

The council blamed “structural issues” and apologised for the inconvenience.

But undertakers said funerals were being delayed by several days because of the resulting pressure on other crematoria and families were suffering extra stress.

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The crematorium was extensively damage when a fire broke out in the roof of one 
of the buildings in 2015. The £2 million repair and improvement project includes replacing the roof, fitting out a new waiting room, replacement of a damaged cremator and an upgrade to the main office space.

The work was due to take five months, but according to latest estimates will now last twice as long.

And it is estimated the loss of revenue to the council over the whole period could amount to around another £2m.

During the closure, families have been diverted mostly to Warriston, Seafield or West Lothian crematoria.

Mark Porteous, president of the Scottish Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors, said people were now having to wait up to two weeks to for a funeral. “Once Mortonhall eventually reopens that will probably go down by two or three days,” he said.

“Funerals are an emotional time anyway, but the inconvenience of getting across to the other side of the city and not knowing where is best to have a reception afterwards is just added stress when people are already upset.

“It’s lost revenue for local businesses – hotels and so on.

“And the revenue lost to the council must be into the millions now. After the fire and before it closed, Mortonhall was working at reduced capacity. It had to operate on two cremators instead of four from October 2015 until May 2016.”

Mr Porteous also complained at a lack of communication from the council. “No-one is telling us what’s going on,” he said. “Some families have the impression Mortonhall is closed for good.”

The council said some loss of revenue had been budgeted for and the amount was mitigated by savings on operating costs.

A spokeswoman said: “The facilities at Mortonhall Crematorium are currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment programme following a fire in 2015. Due to structural issues the project is now running to a revised timescale, with full completion scheduled for March 2017.”

She added that environment convener Lesley Hinds and the top official in charge of Mortonhall would be meeting the contractor “to express our concern and to ensure work is carried out as quickly as possible”.

She added: “We are in close liaison with funeral directors in order to keep them well informed. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”