WORK has started on Oxfordshire’s third crematorium.

Construction began last month at the £4m South Oxfordshire Crematorium and Memorial Park, near Wantage.

It will open in January and will be able take up to 1,200 cremations a year.

The development – off the A338 between Hanney and Frilford – will also have 600 burial plots, which bosses expect will last 15 years.

Owner Memoria said it will be the closest facility for 183,000 people – the county’s existing crematoria are in Barton, Oxford, and at Banbury.

The 296 sqm building will have landscaped gardens of remembrance and take religious and non-denominational services.

The chapel will seat up to 100 people, with room for more than 400 on the site if the service is relayed outside through speakers.

Memoria finance director Michael Hackney said: “We have identified a critical need for cremation and burial services in the area and believe that families will appreciate the opportunity to receive distinguished service in a beautiful setting.”

James McGee, who runs Wantage Funeral Directors, said: “The nearest crematoria for people in Wantage are Oxford, Swindon and Thatcham, which are all 45 minutes away.

“People often want to follow the hearse but that doesn’t mean they want to follow it on a 90-minute round trip for a five- minute service. It will be very popular.”

He said cremations were increasingly popular because families have more choice about what to do with ashes.

He said: “You can scatter them or bury them or send them up in a firework.

“Burial is becoming more expensive. With the reduction of available land, prices are on the increase.”

Oxford City Council charges £1,400 to bury an adult in one of its cemeteries with exclusive plot rights for 50 years, and £1,000 for a casket, compared to £800 for cremation.