UPGRADES to one of Somerset’s crematoriums are indefinitely on hold in light of the precarious finances of the unitary council.

Yeovil Crematorium, located on Bunford Lane in the west of the town, was completed in 1970 and currently handles around 1,700 cremations every year.

South Somerset District Council attempted over a number of years to upgrade the facility, committing money to make it more environmentally friendly and to provide more room for mourners, allowing the building to handle further services.

But any further upgrades to the building are now on hold indefinitely as Somerset Council (which replaced the district council in April 2023) seeks to avoid financial oblivion.

The original decision to refurbish and upgrade the facility was taken back in June 2017, with the council intending to construct a new chapel, waiting room, a smaller secondary chapel and improved parking facilities, as well as replacing the existing cremators.

A total of £4million was originally allocated to this project, which was increased to £4.921m in August 2019 following the initial tenders being received.

By March 2020, one of the two replacement cremators had been installed – but the installer went into liquidation, and the new cremator installed had “mercury abatement issues”, which had to be urgently addressed to prevent environmental hazards.

Furthermore, the contract for the main construction element was not ultimately taken forward due to “operational pressures” during the first coronavirus lockdown.

In light of these issues, the district council voted in February 2022 to provide an additional £800,000 towards upgrading the facility.

A further £185,400 was agreed in August 2022 to reflect high inflation within the construction industry.

The majority of the upgrades were pushed back by a year in early-2023, with the new unitary authority delaying other capital projects – such as the Wincanton regeneration scheme and improvements to Bridgwater library – to reduce its in-year borrowing and deliver a balanced budget for its first year.

The council has now confirmed that, like the Wincanton scheme, the crematorium upgrade had been removed from the capital programme for the coming year, removing £3,957,000 of external borrowing.

A spokesman said: “The upgrade was a project that has been on a capital programme of the previous council (South Somerset District Council) for a number of years without progressing. Any assumptions on the refurbishment costs will therefore be out of date.

“Somerset Council has reviewed schemes and focused particularly on those that have not progressed and were assumed to be funded by borrowing.

“Removing this from the list does not prevent a new scheme coming forward in the future.”

The full capital programme for the next 12 months will be approved by the full council when it meets to set its annual budget in Bridgwater on February 20 at 10am.