Work on a proposed multi-million pound crematorium development in Newtownabbey could get under way within a matter of months.
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is pushing ahead with plans for the £5million project at Ballyearl, despite opposition from residents living in the vicinity of the green field site.
The local authority, which owns the land earmarked for the crematorium, is close to concluding its search for a private sector partner to build and operate the new facility.
In an interview with the Times, council chief executive Jacqui Dixon confirmed that a private sector partner is likely to be confirmed “in the near future” - probably this summer. And she revealed that the crematorium could be operational within a year.
“We are still in the dialogue stage in terms of the procurement exercise, but we are hopeful that we are going to enter into a contract and we will have the details of that quite soon.
“The whole process I suppose between now and actually having the facility on site and operating could be about 12 months,” she said.
Last year, planners granted outline planning permission for the crematorium development on land opposite Ballyearl Arts and Leisure Centre, next to the council’s central services depot.
The council hopes that the Public Private Partnership arrangement will provide a quality service for local ratepayers, and generate income through an annual rent and a share of the money earned from cremations.
“I think it will be a very well used facility, not only by the people of Antrim and Newtownabbey, but people beyond,” Mrs Dixon added.
Residents living near the proposed crematorium site have voiced concerns about increased traffic levels, potential pollution and the impact on people’s health. They also fear the development could lead to a drop in property prices and destroy the local community.