Fifteen months ago, work started on building a much-needed crematorium to serve the people of West Lindsey and beyond.
Now that work is complete and last Friday, West Lindsey District Council Chairman Steve England cut the ribbon on the authority’s new £6 million flagship building.
Councillors and invited guests had the opportunity to tour the crematorium.
The following day, a public open day saw many people take the opportunity to get a ‘behind the scenes’ view.
Lea Fields Crematorium is the first facility to be built in the district.
Set in parkland near the village of Lea, just outside Gainsborough the design of the site and materials used have been chosen to reflect the rural nature of the site and make the best use of the natural boundaries.
The geometric building has a double height spacious chapel ,which gives a sense of occasion and celebration, without a specific religious bias.
The chapel seats 120 people, with additional standing room in the chapel and the foyer.
As well as a large Porte-Cochère (canopy) providing a generous covered area creating a focal point for visitors on arrival, Lea Fields has a covered walk way leading to a covered area for viewing floral tributes.
Speaking at the opening, the area’s MP, Sir Edward Leigh said: “It is something that inevitably comes to us all in the end.
“It is a fantastic facility and will help ease the pressure on other facilities and help local people to pay their respects more easily.”
Among the funeral directors at the opening event was David Dernley , head of funeral services at Lincolnshire Co-op, who agreed it was a much needed facility.
He said: “It will provide more choice for people and it is a lovely modern facility.
“One of the big benefits of having this facility is it will help accommodate funerals in a shorter space of time; at the moment it can take up to four weeks for dates, so this can only be good news.”
Ursula Lidbetter, Chief Executive of the Lincolnshire Coop who also attended the official opening, added: “It will be more convenient for our clients, but it will be more help to us too with it effectively being on our doorstep.
“The setting is very beautiful.”
And, it is the setting that has impressed a number of visitors.
John Burke, Deputy Lieutenant of Lincolnshire said: “We have just seen the Garden of Remembrance and whilst it needs to mature - it was lovely and it will be an attractive place.”
His wife, Rosie, added: “The technology which has been used in the crematorium is very impressive and there are lovely views from the site.”
Coun Jessie Milne, ward member for Lea, has been a member of the Working Group for the project.
She said: “I am delighted that at long last we have a crematorium in West Lindsey and we can do so much more to help the people in their saddest of times.
“We are looking after the people that elected us to serve them.
“It is so peaceful and tranquil and open, and the sun is virtually in the building all day.
“It is a great credit to everyone who has worked on this.”
Leader of West Lindsey District Council, Coun Giles McNeill said he was “most pleased the facility was delivered on time and on budget”.
He continued: “The new building has been designed both internally and externally in such a way as to enhance the overall feeling of tranquillity and peace.
“The building has been fitted with the latest filtration system, so there will be no smoke or odour.
“It’s been finished to a high standard by our building contractors Willmott Dixon.
“We are now able to start offering the much needed service to bereaved families both in and around West Lindsey.”
While the building has been under construction, it has drawn a lot of interest and the community has been involved along the way.
Stuart Kerr, director at Willmott Dixon, said: “The scheme has positively impacted local communities during the build through our community engagement initiatives.
“Over the course of the project, we have invested time, to the monetary equivalent of around £450k, in working with local schools and providing work experience to local people.
“The facility boasts a modern design and has that little something special, in the form of a geometric Armstrong ceiling, which is the first of its kind in the UK.”
Designing, developing and operating a crematorium is all quite new to the Local Authority, so the council has appointed Deborah Balsdon as Crematorium Manager, who has more than 10 years’ experience working at crematoriums in Lincolnshire.
Deborah has worked closely with the ICCM (Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management) and a number of ICCM members have been invaluable in offering support and guidance throughout the process.
Marian Webb, ICCM Deputy President said of Lea Fields: “It is a wonderful, serene and open chapel.
“I was really impressed by the design and the detailing in the roof.
“Lea Fields Crematorium is set in such beautiful surroundings that any family who comes will be comforted by the serenity of the setting.”
Deborah is responsible for the day to day running of the facility, along with her experienced team and has been busy showing funeral directors, officiants and families around the new building.
She said: “It’s a privilege to be given the opportunity to work in such an amazing place.
“Lea Fields Crematorium is in such a lovely setting and provides a special place for relatives to say goodbye to loved ones.”
Deborah hopes to have the crematorium fully open by the end of the month, but over the next couple of weeks will be concentrating on making sure everything runs smoothly.
She said: “It is important for funeral directors who will using the facility to get to know how things operate, so things can run seamlessly on the day of a funeral.
“We want to offer the best service possible to families when they are facing such a difficult time in their lives.”
A special open day for funeral directors is being held today (Wednesday) but the crematorium always offers an ‘open door’ .
Deborah added: “We want to help dispel any myths surrounding cremation.
“We are happy to show people round and explain the process.”
One of those myths is that ashes are not always returned to the correct family, but the rigorous system shown to be in place can help allay these fears.
•For more information visit www.leafieldscrematorium.co.uk, call 01427 676500 or email email@example.com