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Council Ducks Questions On Crematorium Error

Published on: 7 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 9 Sep, 2020

By Hugh Coakley

A design error has forced Guildford Borough Council to redesign the chimney at the new crematorium, increasing the height from 8.1m to 9m. The crematorium re-opened in December 2019.

But the council has ducked questions on whether the error would, if discovered during the tendering process, have affected the award of the contract to the crematorium supplier, Faculatieve Technologies and who will pay for the changes.

Approved and proposed changes to the new crematorium from the planning application (20/P/01026).

Objectors are also saying that the new appearance of the crematorium roof is unacceptable.

One objector, John Harrison, has written: “The present solution seems to ignore all aesthetic considerations and simply bolts on an extra length of stainless steel conduit, leaving exposed this naked structural element, proudly signifying the real, crude function of the building. There it will sit atop the otherwise dignified building, glinting for all to see, shining as a pinnacle to man’s capacity for oversight.”

But it does not look as if the council will be making further changes to their contentious design. An email from a council officer to one objector on September 4, said: “We will not be making further amendments to the design at this time in light of the comments received.”

Detail showing the additional 900mm chimney to be added to the existing flue. Architect, Mark Westcott said: “It has not been ‘designed’ at all , but is merely a crude and thoughtless engineering solution.”

The enforced late change to the chimney could possibly have been avoided had the council listened to architect, Mark Westcott, in October 2017 when he emailed the council with his concerns at the “apparent lack of any air quality consideration in the approved [planning] application” and to David Harvey, an air quality consultant based in Farnham, who shared Mr Westott’s concerns.

In his emails in 2017 requesting the calculations for the chimney, Mr Westcott reminded the council of the “duty of care owed by the borough to the occupants of the existing housing”.

He continued by saying that: “… the arrangement [of the flues at the proposed new facility] would not even meet the minimum building regulation requirements for a domestic gas boiler of 0.6m clearance above ridge height.

“Anyone standing near to the building on any day other than a completely calm one would be enveloped in the flue gas fumes and may well be quite distressed if they were aware of this.”

On being pressed by Mr Harvey and Mr Westcott for the proposed emissions to be modelled, an internal email from a council officer in September 2018, revealed as part of the heavily redacted FoI response, said: “Obviously, the dispersion modelling will be an extra cost to the council, however, I have a nagging feeling that the originator of the topic may have a point.”

Both David Harvey and Mark Westcott have expressed frustration at the actions by Guildford Council.

Despite being proved correct in their concerns about the crematorium’s chimney, none of the formal complaints Mr Harvey made against the council in September 2019 were upheld by James Whiteman, GBC’s CEO.

Additionally, an FoI by Mr Harvey in October 2019 was rejected by the council as vexatious. It said that his “requests appear obsessive and would impose a significant burden on staff time to process.”

A Guildford Borough Council spokesperson said: “We are currently resolving the issue of the calculation error in the chimney stack height, which is currently going through the planning and regulatory process.  The site operates well within the emissions limit values specified by legislation and the site’s permit to cremate.

“The site has also voluntarily opted to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions to improve air quality.

“The Crematorium provides an important service for the bereaved and has done so for over 50 years. It has delivered a significant role during the pandemic. The replacement Crematorium opened in December 2019, which included landscaped courtyards, reflective pools and streams along with new and enhanced landscaping to provide better facilities and a peaceful environment for the bereaved.”

David Harvey has previously demonstrated his air quality credentials when he was instrumental in bringing to the attention of Waverley Borough Council irregularities in their air quality monitoring which resulted in the conviction of the council’s air quality officer for submitting false air quality figures.

The Dragon has written again to the council asking that the questions on the contract and who will bear the cost be answered.

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