Town population's age profile drops

Eastbourne is shaking off its reputation as 'God's waiting room'.

The town's age profile has dropped significantly over the last seven years.

The shift in the town's population balance has been highlighted by a drop off in business at the borough cemetery and crematorium.

And the good news for those residents who are approaching their twilight years is that they are likely to live longer than people elsewhere in the country.

Income there dropped by 70,000 last year — leaving a surprise gap in the borough council's income.

For years the town has been the butt of jokes and referred to as God's waiting room and a graveyard above ground.

But last year saw the lowest number of cremations in more than 25 years. The council is now looking at clawing back revenue by new initiatives at the crematorium such as a flower shop franchise.

Statistics on the East Sussex in Figures website, which is managed by the county council, confirm Eastbourne's changing profile.

Between 2001 and last year the population of the borough rose from 89,800 to 94,800, but the number of over 65s increased by just 120.

It is this influx of younger people — probably down to the housing growth at Sovereign Harbour — that has lowered the death rate from 17.8 per thousand population in 1991 to 13.8 in 2006.

Added to this is the fact that local people are living longer. Of those who died in Eastbourne in 2006, 26 per cent were over 90, compared to 20 per cent in Hastings and a national average of 16 per cent.

Eastbourne Borough Council's cabinet spokesperson for housing, health and community services, Councillor Margaret Bannister, said, "Income from the cemeteries and crematorium service is less than expected due to a drop in the death rate.

"Figures have been falling gradually and although the annual figures do fluctuate, 2007 saw our lowest cremation numbers since the early 1980s.

"Although the national death rate has also fallen, Eastbourne Crematorium has seen a drop of approximately 500 cremations from 2000 to 2007, where annual figures fell from 3,004 to 2,530.

"Predicting the death rate is always very difficult but particularly so in an area such as Eastbourne where the demographics are changing."