How a Havant crematorium is helping the local environment and wildlife to thrive

The Oaks May 2020

When The Oaks Crematorium in Havant opened back in 2013, the desire was to create a crematorium with a difference. Gemma Lacey, Southern Co-op’s Director of Sustainability and Communications tells us about how working with the Trust has helped to ensure that The Oaks makes a positive difference to the local environment and wildlife.

The Oaks Crematorium is owned and operated by Southern Co-op - the independent co-operative formed in Portsmouth nearly 150 years ago. 

My role when I came into the business was to develop a clear strategy for sustainability to underpin everything we do. Southern Co-op has always had a purpose beyond profit, working for the benefit of our communities and the environment. This is important to our members and a core part of our co-operative difference. 

The Oaks was designed in a way that provides families with a meaningful and personalised service, but that also protects and enhances the environment.  We have been working with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust since it opened and nearly seven years on the environmental developments are a huge success. 

The crematorium’s design and setting continue to be quite unique as the building is highly sustainable and the grounds take in ancient semi-natural woodland, designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) which surrounds the site. 

Sustainability was naturally an important consideration in creating and establishing The Oaks Crematorium. The grounds include a natural pond and a wildflower meadow with active beehives and bird boxes as well as hedgehog houses; encouraging local wildlife to thrive. 

Surveys by the Trust’s ecology services team, Arcadian, have shown that there are now more than 100 different botanical species and that the meadow provides an excellent habitat for insects like bees, grasshoppers and butterflies, as well as cover and foraging opportunities for small mammals. 

Work undertaken has involved sensitively clearing and enhancing the pond area with the planting of native woodland flowers and marginal pond species like flag iris. 

The Wildlife Trust have helped us to understand the flora and fauna there and helped create an action plan to enhance the habitats on site so we can encourage more wildlife.  From ongoing monitoring and surveys, we know that the overall biodiversity of the site has increased.  

The building has also been built to the highest environmental standards and is designed to be as energy-efficient as possible.  Low-level energy-efficient lighting minimises light pollution and we worked hard to deliver a sustainable heating and cooling solution for the building.  The main chapel uses passive ventilation, where cool fresh air is naturally drawn in at low level on the eastern side of the building (pre-warmed during the cooler months) and expelled at high level on the western side. We’ve also recently installed solar panels to help reduce electricity consumption and our carbon footprint. 

The site has proved popular with clients, visitors and members alike.  It provides a very different experience to many other crematoria. People enjoy being able to spend time in a peaceful setting that’s very tranquil and natural. The environment adds to the overall experience and it is a beautiful place to spend time at peace and remember loved ones.