Temporary morgue for up to 1,000 people to be built in Lancashire in case of increase in coronavirus deaths

A temporary morgue for up to 1,000 people is set to be built at a BAE Systems site in Lancashire to ensure that the county can cope with any spike in deaths as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 2:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 3:05 pm

The facility will be constructed at the company’s Warton plant in Fylde in preparation for what has been described as a “potential increase” in demand for mortuary space across the region.

Once work begins, it is expected to be completed in the space of just eight days and the morgue will be operational – should it be required – before the end of the month.

It will be for use by all three top-tier local authorities in the area – Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council – and has been developed to ensure that deceased persons are treated with dignity amid any increase in their numbers.

Visual representation of how a temporary morgue might look - but this is not an image of the facility at Warton (courtesy of Lancashire County Council)

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that the construction and operational costs of the facility - for a period of three months - are estimated to be just under £1.8m. BAE Systems is providing the location without any charge.

County council leader Geoff Driver said that he hopes that the temporary mortuary will never have to be used.

He added: “But it’s vital that we are prepared in order to ensure the deceased are treated decently and with respect.

“We are very grateful for the support we have received from BAE Systems, who have provided this site and access to utilities free of charge to support the people of Lancashire and help us to deal with this crisis.

Lancashire County Council says that it hopes the facility will never have to be used, but that it's "vital to be prepared"

“The best way to reduce the numbers of deaths in Lancashire is for everyone to follow the government’s instruction to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives,” County Cllr Driver added.

It is understood that funeral directors will be provided with details of how the facility will operate.

The project has been co-ordinated by the Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF), the umbrella group of local authorities, emergency services and other public and private sector organisations which respond to emergencies in the county.

Neil Shaw, chief executive of Rossendale Borough Council and lead for planning for excess deaths for the LRF, said: “We have to plan for all contingencies as part of our county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic – and, sadly, some of the plans we must make are around how we handle an anticipated increase in deaths.

“We are hoping this facility will not be needed, but it is important to be prepared and ensure that, whatever happens in the coming weeks, we have the facilities in place to ensure the deceased continue to be treated with dignity and respect.

“The temporary facility is being built as part of Lancashire’s overall emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic on the basis of advice from government about how every local area of the country should be ready for the possibility of a significant increase in deaths.”

The BAE Systems site at Warton is usually involved with projects to create state-of-the-art military aircraft. But Martin Taylor, chief operating officer at BAE Systems Air, said that the company now stands “ready to provide our support at this difficult time”.

“As such, we are working with Lancashire County Council to provide space for a temporary morgue at our site in Warton Aerodrome.

“At this time of national need, we must all play our part to support the government’s efforts in the containment of this pandemic, whether as an individual adhering to the public health guidelines, or in this instance, standing by our local council to support the critical work they need to do,” Mr. Taylor added.