Belfast City Council has revealed that it is working to appoint a specialist design team to take forward plans for a new multi-million pound crematorium development at Roselawn Cemetery.
The local authority has ring-fenced £18 million for a new “two-chapel crematorium” to replace the existing facility at Crossnacreevy, in the Castlereagh hills.
The City of Belfast Crematorium – still the only one in Northern Ireland – opened in 1961. It currently carries out around 3,500 cremations each year.
The proposed larger facility would increase capacity, allowing around 4,500 cremations to take place annually.
As part of the council’s plans, the existing crematorium would close, with the building being “re-used” for other purposes.
A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said the proposals are based on increasing demand for cremation services, but couldn’t say when it hopes to have the new facility operational.
Stressing that the plans are “at initial stages”, she said the final project designs will have to be submitted to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council – the local authority for the area – for planning approval.
“Belfast City Council’s proposals are based on an economic assessment which shows that demand for cremation will continue to rise year on year and by 2025 is expected to have reached 4,500. Roselawn is currently carrying out about 3,500 cremations annually,” the spokesperson said.
“The proposed development is for a new two-chapel crematorium (2 x 150 seat chapels) with the re-use of the existing crematorium building.
“Our replacement plans are at an initial stage. We are currently working to appoint an integrated design team and crematorium specialist so it is too early to specify a timeline.”
It is understood the existing crematorium has listed status, meaning the council is restricted in terms of making any external changes, extending the building or redeveloping the site.
The operating hours of the service were extended in 2012 in response to increased demand, according to the council. But the spokesperson insisted that the current three-day wait for a cremation slot is “chiefly dictated by the administrative process” and “has not increased over the years”. She added that “there are available cremation slots in the crematorium on most days”.
Last year, members of the city council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee agreed to set aside a maximum of £18 million for the proposed new crematorium development, pending further work on the design and access.