Newtownabbey Borough Council is pushing ahead with plans for a multi-million pound crematorium development within the borough.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, March 5, members agreed that the council should go ahead with the project, in conjunction with the private sector.
Barry McKiernan from Cogent Consulting presented elected members with two possible options - development of a crematorium paid for and run by the council; or a public-private partnership (PPP) involving the council and a private sector company.
The meeting heard that construction of a crematorium, likely to be on council-owned land at Ballyearl, could cost almost £6million, with millions more having to be spent on operating and refurbishment costs over a 25-year operating period.
Under a PPP, the council would lease the land to a private sector company which would build and operate the facility, and meet any refurbishment costs. In turn, the council would secure a rent yield of around £65,000 per year, and income from cremations and memorials.
Having outlined the findings of financial and operational modelling for both options, Mr McKiernan said that the most potentially economically advantageous course of action would be for the council to work with the private sector.
“It would enable the council to address its statutory responsibilities in a costly manner,” he said.
Cllr Billy Webb agreed that a public-private partnership would be “the best way forward,” pointing out that there would be no cost to ratepayers and that the council would make a profit.
“We can’t lose out on this,” he commented. “For ratepayers it’s good, for the council it’s good and I think we should be moving on it.”
His proposal was seconded by Cllr Victor Robinson.
Cllr Mark Cosgrove also backed the PPP option, adding: “This represents considerable value for money across the board.”
Chief executive Jacqui Dixon said that the crematorium development would “provide a quality, dignified service to ratepayers and other customers”, and “generate income for the council.”
Members agreed to budget up to £10,000 to engage outside experts to advise the council on legal and procurement issues, including drawing up a service level agreement for the running of the facility.
The council’s Director of Development Services, Majella McAlister, revealed that officers hope to move the project forward “this side of June”, engaging with local residents before submitting a planning application.
All councillors, with the exception of Sinn Fein’s Gerry O’Reilly and Marie Mackessey, voted in favour of moving ahead with the PPP option.