A multi-million pound eco-friendly crematorium has opened in Havant.
The first cremations have taken place at the state-of-the-art building, which is surrounded by ancient woodland north of Bartons Road.
Built to the highest environmental standards, the facility employs the latest techniques in cremation and clean technology to prevent air pollution.
The Southern Co-operative has been working with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to protect and enhance the environment and wildlife in the grounds.
Roddy McGinley, crematorium and cemeteries manager, said: ‘The Oaks has been designed sensitively to complement the surrounding wildflower meadow and ancient woodland in which it sits, which in turn creates a tranquil environment for the bereaved who are visiting.’
Funeral services are planned to last up to 45 minutes, which is 15 minutes longer than people locally have been used to.
The crematorium, called The Oaks, can accommodate up to 200 people for a funeral, with seating for 86 people.
Bereaved families can choose music from a library of thousands of songs.
Visual life tributes of video, photos and music can also be played on multimedia screens.
And family and friends in the UK or anywhere abroad who cannot make the funeral will still be able to view the service via a securely transmitted webcast.
More than 150 funeral directors, clergy and celebrants were given a tour of the facility before it opened.
Celebrant Malcolm Chewter said: ‘My first impressions are that it is an absolutely lovely venue for a funeral – it feels welcoming and warm.
‘The space is welcome for all cultures, the symbolism here is the oak tree and I like that idea.’
Reverend Nigel Bennett, from St Jude’s Church in Southsea, added: ‘The Oaks has been very well thought out – it is a lovely environment.
‘The oversize cremator will, I’m sure, be useful.’
The Oaks can accommodate cremations of much larger people, which is increasingly required, and up until now have had to be held out of the area.
Within the wood in the grounds is a natural pond for reflection.