Gravesend is to get its own crematorium, the Gravesend Messenger can exclusively reveal.
Mercia Crematoria Developments Ltd and the Co-operative Group will unveil plans for a memorial park and crematorium at a public open day on September 4.
It will be based off Gravesend Road in Chalk, next to the church, with the open day being held at Chalk Parish Hall from 3pm-7.30pm.
Mercia’s Head of Planning Andy Marshall said: “With a shortage of burial space, no woodland burial facilities and the nearest crematorium over 10 miles away, Mercia and the Co-op consider that now is the time for Gravesham’s 101,720 residents - and both increasing and ageing - to have their own Memorial Park to meet the social needs of the borough.
“Having secured a suitable site capable of meeting these needs for the next 25 years and beyond, our initial plans have obtained a favourable response from local funeral directors, funeral officiants and other interested representatives within the borough.”
The nearest crematorium is at Blue Bell Hill in Chatham, 12 miles away, with another 17 miles away in Maidstone, and one 15 miles away in Eltham.
Ward councillor Leslie Hills told the Messenger he was in two minds over the plan.
He said: “I know we’re in desperate need of cemetery space, but if I had to choose whether it was here, I’d probably say no.
“They are yet to submit their planning application but we have a couple of meetings with the developers later this month.
"I suppose the reason I’m in two minds is because this is development on green belt land.”
Gravesham has two main burial grounds, Gravesend Cemetery in Old Road West and Northfleet Cemetery in Springhead Road.
Rural cemeteries include Southfleet, Higham, Ifield, Luddesdown and Meopham.
Mr Marshall continued: “Our next step is to consult with the local community to obtain your input into the design – so please do come and tell us what features you’d like to see, and what matters most to you.
“Representatives of the Co-op and our architects Clague will be in attendance to answer queries and feedback forms will be available to ensure views are taken into account.
“The council has previously spoken of cemetery need and concluded back in 2009 that the best location would be to the east of Gravesend on the A226 Gravesend Road, hence having chosen that site.
“As stated it is a comprehensive proposal designed so as to meet the needs of all sections of the community, including ethnic minorities, it therefore incorporates both traditional and woodland burial space as well as a new crematorium with scattering of ashes.
"It is all set within landscaped grounds featuring wildflower meadows, ponds and amenity grassland linked by footpath and designed to capture views of the Thames Estuary to the north.”
About 80% of funerals from Gravesham opt for cremation rather than burial.
This is around 10% higher than the national average for cremations, reflecting the religious and ethnic composition of the borough, a Gravesham council report stated.
In terms of religion and preference for funeral arrangement; Hindus, Sikh and Buddhists all desire cremation, whilst Jewish and Muslim people desire burial.
For those of a Christian background, the matter is one of personal choice.
The area has also been identified as one of the three options for the Lower Thames Crossing.
A decision on that is expected in autumn.