Work Begins at Cemetery to Provide Modern New Office and Waiting Room

Cemetery building plan
Cemetery building plan

WORK starts this week to create a new purpose built office at Henley Road Cemetery.

The new cemetery building will deliver office accommodation, a waiting room, sales suite and new public toilets, as well as a strong room which will hold all of Reading’s birth, death and marriage records since 1837.

Council contractors, BEARD Construction, will begin work today (Wednesday 23rd May) on the site of the old public toilet block, close to the cemetery entrance.  The aim is to complete the work by the end of November 2018.

The current offices and waiting room space at the cemetery are no longer fit for purpose and the closure of Yeomanry House at the end of 2018 necessitates the creation of a new strong room.

Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Consumer Services, said:

“This work represents a significant investment for the Registration and Bereavement service. The existing cemetery office is far too small and doesn’t provide an adequate service to customers or a satisfactory working environment for staff. The purpose built building will offer significantly improved customer service, including a welcoming waiting room and modern public toilets. It will provide a more appropriate environment for customers who are often recently bereaved.

“I’m pleased the work to modernise our facilities at the cemetery has started and look forward to seeing the new building the end of the year. We are working hard with the contractors to minimise disruption to the service’s daily operations and all local funeral directors and residents have been kept in the loop about the impending work.”

Cemetery new building plan
Cemetery new building plan close-up

This work is part of a wider review of how the Council is making the best possible use of its buildings, which includes the decision to close Yeomanry House and relocate the Council’s register office to Reading Town Hall at the end of the year.

The current strong room at Yeomanry House, which holds extensive public records and paper certification documents, has run out of space and necessitates a site with very specific requirements, all of which can be accommodated at the new purpose built cemetery location.

There is a notice on the toilet block to say it will be closed from Wednesday 23rd of May in preparation for its demolition.

Ends

Notes

The new building proposal was part of the Council’s Asset Management Plan, which details how the Council is making the best possible use of its buildings to help reduce running costs and contribute to closing the budget gap by through the sale of buildings, as well as providing a better services to residents.

The decision to close Yeomanry House and relocate ceremonies to the Town Hall, birth and death and all other administrative functions to the civic offices as well as relocate the strong room and certification service to the cemetery, was part a package of savings, efficiency and income proposals totalling nearly £20 million that went before the Council’s Policy Committee on Monday July 18th 2016. www.reading.gov.uk/media/5706/item11-2/pdf/item11_(2).pdf  

This is set against a background of the Government funding for Reading, which will have been cut from nearly £58 million between 2010 and 2020, leaving the Council with a Government grant of under £2 million. This may be removed entirely by 2020.

The replacement certificate service, located within the new strong room, will  be operated solely as a postal service with a range of delivery options and the public will be able to order certificates online, by telephone and by using a touchscreen kiosk at the civic. A secure register transfer system will be put in place in line with other secure document transfers protocols.

The strong room at Yeomanry House holds extensive public records and paper certification documents. Unfortunately, it has run out of space and for the last 10 years the service has supplemented its storage capacity with safes. However, a recent structural survey strongly advised against installing further safes at this location.

Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) consists of the following elements; registration and nationality checking, ceremonies and certification.

An important element within the BDM service is the secure storage and production of certificates. The key elements of these requirements include the provision of a strong room that is a self-contained unit in the form of a box; the walls, ceiling and floor of brick or concrete construction which would remain intact in the event of fire. Materials used in the construction of, and finishing of, the repository should be non-combustible. The security door and frame should be of metal construction with fire resistance for a minimum of two hours. Moreover the site should not be liable to subsidence or flooding; there should be no heating pipes or water pipes and no windows.

Victoria Nickless

For media enquiries about this release email victoria.nickless@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 3957