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Quirky buildings to be sold as part of cemetery improvement plan

Unusual cemetery buildings in North Tyneside are up for sale after standing vacant for years.  

North Tyneside Council is seeking to offload four buildings deemed surplus to requirements in Wallsend: The Lodge, East Chapel and West Chapel (including the chapels’ Coffin Biers) at Church Bank Cemetery; and The Lodge at Holy Cross Cemetery.

The council will listen to offers for the buildings, all of which need renovation but have beautiful stonework and original features including coffin biers; single storey structures originally used for the temporary display of coffins.

The move by North Tyneside Council will help to generate funds to go towards a major programme of repairs and improvements for its remaining facilities, while also removing the burden of future repair costs for those buildings.

Plans include improving road access at Whitley Bay cemetery and replacing its cremators; enhancing the Book of Remembrance room at Preston Cemetery; and carrying out repairs to other cemetery buildings in the borough.

Meanwhile, the council’s bereavement services have achieved the Gold Standard Award for the quality of their service following an assessment by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM).

Phil Scott, Head of Environment, Housing and Leisure, said: “We’re proud of the great service provided by our bereavement team.

“However, we recognise that the borough’s cemetery facilities are in need of investment to bring them all up to the same high standard.

“We intend to invite expressions of interest in some of our vacant and unused cemetery buildings.

“Their sale would contribute towards the significant investment we’re making in the rest of our cemetery facilities.

“But it also presents a rare opportunity for someone to own one of the borough’s historical ecclesiastical buildings and bring it back to life.”

The local authority, supported by its partner Capita, reviewed all cemetery buildings in the borough. An assessment was made of each building’s particular characteristics ranging from its condition to restrictions on alternative use.

The council now intends to invite expressions of interest for the four vacant and unused buildings.

Meanwhile, dilapidated outbuildings at Preston Cemetery and Benton Cemetery, as well the toilet block at Benton Cemetery, would be demolished.

The capital receipts and cost savings will help fund the council’s major repairs and improvements programme:

Preston Cemetery - The Book of Remembrance room will be extended into an adjacent outbuilding, enabling an electronic book and seating to be installed. It will allow the floral displays to be segregated as these cause condensation in the current shared room. The cemetery would also become the hub for the council’s bereavement services team. Its vacant North Lodge would become an operational base for staff while dilapidated outbuildings would be demolished to make way for vehicle and equipment storage.

Whitley Bay Cemetery - The cemetery’s two cremators were installed in 2000 and need to be upgraded. They will be replaced with one larger size cremator fitted with mercury abatement equipment, reducing emissions. The cemetery’s entry and exit will be improved for traffic and the road running through the cemetery will be resurfaced.

In addition to the improvements at these two cemeteries, an extensive programme of repairs to cemetery buildings across the borough will be delivered over the next six years.

The 19th century buildings at Church Bank in Wallsend will be initially marketed for sale. Expressions of interest will be invited for The Lodge at Holy Cross Cemetery at a later date.

Church Bank’s Lodge is a two-storey sandstone detached residential dwelling with traditional dormer windows, timber suspended floors and a large rear garden.

Its East and West Chapels are mirror images of each other. They are single-storey with sandstone copings and stone cross-shaped finials at each gable. They also have an octagonal bell tower with a stone spire. Their outbuildings (Coffin Biers) are single storey structures originally used for the temporary display of funeral coffins.

The buildings are within the St Peter’s Conservation Area, which means any conversion would need to conserve all aspects of the buildings’ character or appearance.

For further information about the Church Bank properties contact Strategic Property, Tel: (0191) 643 2142 or email: strategicproperty@northtyneside.gov.uk