FERMANAGH and Omagh District Councillors have approved proposals to enter into a formal arrangement with two neighbouring local authorities over developing an outline business case for a new crematorium in the West.

At the monthly meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council on Tuesday night, the Council’s Director of Corporate Services and Governance, Celine McCartan, said that discussions had been held with representatives from both Mid Ulster and Derry City and Strabane District Councils over the possibility of collaborating on the development of a new crematorium.

She sought approval from the members to proceed on a “more formal” basis with the two neighbouring Councils to look at an outline business case for a collaboration project in respect of a crematorium.

The meeting heard that Fermanagh and Omagh District Council have already obtained planning permission for a crematorium and associated facilities on the Greenhill Cemetery site in Omagh.

However, members were informed that, as part of the collaborative process, the other two Councils would also put forward some potential sites for consideration.

Councillors were broadly supportive of a collaborative approach and approved the recommendation, but there was some unease over the possibility of another site outside the district being chosen.

Clarifying the situation, Council Chief Executive, Brendan Hegarty, said that other sites would be considered in the outline business case with a view to identifying a way forward.

He said: “Naturally enough, this Council is bringing to the table a site on our own property with planning permission. It is a pretty strong case to present to them.”

Independent Omagh Councillor, Dr. Jo Deehan, told the meeting that she didn’t have any objections to a collaboration, but said that she would not be happy to support a crematorium at another site.

Dr. Deehan said that history had shown that, when it came to the siting of major facilities, Omagh “invariably draws the short straw”.

The Independent Councillor proposed that it be made clear from the outset that the location of the crematorium in Omagh was “non-negotiable”.

Her call was supported by fellow Independent Councillor, Sorcha McAnespy.

But Mr. Hegarty replied: “We cannot insist on that going forward.”

Highlighting the benefits of collaboration, the Chief Executive said that it would bring to the table capital and a share of the risk.

“So it is certainly worth considering,” he said.

After Fermanagh North Councillor, David Mahon, urged members not to be “heavy handed”, Dr. Deehan said she thought that the other Councils would “understand completely” that the site in Omagh would be a given.

She added that it would be the “height of folly” to enter into another business case when there was a clearly-identified site locally.

Despite concerns over the eventual siting of the crematorium, Councillors gave their backing to the recommendation.

Omagh Councillor Martin McColgan said he was quite happy to stick with the original proposal, and that its viability would be enhanced by working with the other local authorities.