Work to increase capacity at South Shields Crematorium is set to start from next week (Monday 10 January).
South Tyneside Council is extending the Chapel area into the existing internal courtyard.
The enlarged Chapel will help to cater for larger funerals by increasing capacity by a total of 126 - providing seating for more than 200 visitors as well as additional standing space.
The development of the 1960s building in John Reid Road also involves repositioning the pulpit and rearranging some of the seating to provide better sight lines for those paying their respects to family and friends. A partition between the existing chapel and extension can be used when required for smaller funerals.
Work will also be carried out to modernise the building with new furniture and a full redecoration of the existing chapel, entrance and exit lobby and waiting area.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council, said: "It's great to see work starting on site marking a major milestone in this project.
"South Shields Crematorium plays a key role in the community, supporting our residents at what can be an extremely distressing and difficult time in their lives. The existing Chapel is quite small, which limits the number of people who can be accommodated within the building. As the only crematorium to serve the entire Borough, it is important the building is fit for purpose.
"Once complete, we will be able to offer a modern facility that is able to accommodate larger funerals for the residents of South Tyneside. This project will help us to deliver on our commitment to improve the crematorium so we can provide the very best services possible to our residents in their time of need."
The construction work, being delivered by Surgo Construction, is expected to take up to 38 weeks to complete. Work will take place on weekends, Mondays and Tuesdays.
This enables funeral services to continue at the crematorium three days a week, on which more services are being offered. In addition, the Chapel at Harton Cemetery, usually only reserved for services where burials take place, is also being made available for cremation services.
Visitors to the Crematorium are advised that whilst works are ongoing, the chapel layout will be altered with decorative hoarding separating the chapel and main construction area. As such, the existing pews will be re-arranged with some moved into the internal foyer where services can be viewed on the live TV monitor. This means that standing room at the rear of the chapel and in the lobby will be temporarily reduced.
It is also anticipated that the crematorium may need to close for up to 12 weeks in the final stages of the work programme this summer. While cremations will still take place, it will not be possible to hold services or memorials in the Chapel during this period. However, the Bereavement Team will support families in making alternative arrangements for services and memorials to take place at chapels in other parts of South Tyneside.
The crematorium grounds and memorial gardens will remain open on weekdays and weekends during works.
For further information about South Shields Crematorium, opening hours and the facilities available, contact the Council's Bereavement Services on (0191) 427 3190.