AN AGREEMENT has been struck for a temporary morgue to be set-up to serve Southampton if needed during a second wave of coronavirus.

Bodies will be stored in a former retail unit near Aldi in Basingstoke should morgues across the county not be able to cope in the event of an increase in Covid-19 deaths.

It will serve all of Hampshire, including Southampton and Portsmouth, and replaces the facility set up at Southampton Airport in April.

Daily Echo: The temporary morgue at Southampton Airport in April.The temporary morgue at Southampton Airport in April.

However, the town's MP, Maria Miller, has said that residents "deserve better" than to have a morgue placed "in the midst of the community", and has lodged a formal complaint with Public Health Hampshire.

The former retail unit on Winklebury Way is located next to an Aldi superstore and opposite a pub and primary school.

It was how close the site was to the community of Winklebury that prompted Mrs Miller to make her complaint.

Daily Echo: Maria Miller MP has made a formal complaint over the plansMaria Miller MP has made a formal complaint over the plans

She said: “It is difficult to believe that Public Health Hampshire could be proposing to place a Covid19 mortuary in the heart of a residential community, next door to the local food supermarket and across the street from a local school.

"I have lodged a formal complaint with Public Health Hampshire and asked for them to change their proposed location immediately. There has been no local consultation on the appropriateness of this site or the proposed change of use of a building which was previously used as a retail unit.

“It is not good enough to say the mortuary is only temporary capacity and simply a precaution. Winklebury residents deserve better and do not need the worry that, in the worst case, bodies awaiting burial will be stored in the midst of the community.”

The county council say that the site will only be used if needed, labelling it a "sensible precaution".

It was chosen in consultation with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, the NHS, faith leaders, Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Also taken into consideration was its "central county location", as well as proximity to good transport links and the size of the space available.

Simon Bryant, the County Council’s Director of Public Health said: “While we have not required any additional temporary capacity to date, with local hospitals and funeral directors coping well, even at the height of the pandemic, we are taking the sensible precaution of securing additional space should it be needed in the future.

“The number of confirmed cases across the wider Hampshire area is currently low, but we are mindful that infection rates are starting to creep up, and with winter approaching, we need to be well placed to respond quickly should mortality rates rise.”