RESIDENTS of a borough which voted in favour of Brexit are facing having to fund £1.5m extra costs to upgrade a crematorium largely due to the price of building materials from foreign and domestic suppliers soaring.

A report to Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet has revealed the forecast cost of work to replace the cremators at West Cemetery, redevelop the chapel into a bereavement service office and create a new chapel on land identified for future burials soared above the original £4.9m estimate.

The authority approved the scheme in October 2019, but costs rose by some £310,000 as a series of mitigation measures were agreed before it received planning approval.

As the project was postponed due to the pandemic the project faced £230,000 of inflation costs as well as a rise of up to £850,000 in the costs of materials due to both the pandemic and supply chains from the UK and abroad.

Data released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy this week show how the cost of imported plywood was 23.7 per cent more in January 2021 than a year earlier, while gravel, sand and aggregates were 19.2 per cent higher.

Builders associations said ongoing logistical and administrative difficulties related to Brexit have led to supply problems and price rises due to hauliers being reluctant to enter and leave the UK.

Councillor Andy Keir, the authority’s local services cabinet member, said every building project nationwide was facing increased costs due to supply issues, particularly where steel was being used, increased Covid safety measures had also led to the rise in costs.

He said putting the blame for the rise solely on Brexit would not be fair as the pandemic had increased the demand for numerous resources and the council did not have the option to delay the upgrade as the cremators needed replacing urgently.

Cllr Keir said: “It is a hefty rise. It’s quite a shock that it’s gone up as far as that, but the reasons for having the update for the cemetery and crematorium are still sound.

“We need the services, the crematorium itself has extended its life beyond expectations and we really need a modern facility. It would be a bigger issue for everybody if we couldn’t get people buried or cremated.”