Multi-million pound church transformation gets blessing
By Andrew Merrell | 9th August 2018
Multi-million-pound plans to transform a Gloucestershire church into the heart and soul of its community have been given the go-ahead.
The ambitious and innovative redesign plans will see the church in Cheltenham continue to be used by its congregation of more than 200 - as well as all sorts of groups and clubs, including business people.
A stunning 'walk-through' video shows an artist's impression of what St Philip and St James Church, Leckhampton will look like when the work is complete.
Rector Revd Nick Davies said: "We are really excited to have received approval for our plans. This allows us to open up this wonderful Victorian building to the whole community.
"Recently we had to spend over £300,000 fixing the roof and that is a lot of money to spend on a building which we were only able to use for a few hours a week."
Reordering approved! We need to take risks with our heritage to ensure that it is accessible & sustainable. As a church we need to rediscover the cathedral model of sacred & secular under one roof & rumours of a God who invites everyone to the party. https://t.co/NrJWP5k3kp pic.twitter.com/LDVFrusJml— Nick Davies (@Nickduffdavies) August 7, 2018
The plans will see the removal of the pews, introduction of flexible seating, underfloor heating and a new wooden floor to create an open, flexible space in the nave.
Towards the back of the side aisles there will be a small servery and office contained within self-standing pods.
Above these there will be glassed-in meeting rooms. They will also open up the west end as a new entrance which will connect with a landscaped piazza/carpark.
Revd. Davies says, "We have worked closely with conservation groups and have consulted widely with the congregation, the local residents' association and the wider community.
"Through this consultation we have changed and improved these plans. These are important changes balancing the heritage we have received and the needs of our congregation and wider community in the 21st century.
"This will remain a beautiful, awe inspiring, sacred building but one many more people will be able to use and enjoy on a daily basis."
The Church hopes that alongside Church services, they will now be able to host concerts, arts events, children's holiday clubs, school services, community fairs, wedding receptions and barn dances and plan to offer this as a new community resource for the thriving Bath Road area.
Revd Davies said: "This may seem like a very modern idea, but this is what our great Cathedrals have been doing for centuries, hosting community activities alongside worship which speaks of a loving God who wishes fullness of life for all."
Cheltenham's MP, Alex Chalk, says "I'm delighted that Pip and Jim's have been given the green light for this project."
Having worked with architects and quantity surveyors the Church estimate that the project will cost around £2.5m.
This will be funded by the sale of a neighbouring property and a fundraising campaign involving grant making trusts and donations from the congregation and local community. They hope that work will begin in Spring 2019.
The Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Revd. Bishop Rachel, said: "It is wonderful news that St Philip and St James Church, Leckhampton has received approval for their innovative plans to redevelop the church.
"Our LIFE vision seeks to enable our church buildings to be used in bold and creative ways, serving our congregations and wider communities, and sharing the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that people may know life in all its fullness."
Church of England churches are subject to Ecclesiastical planning regulations known as the Faculty System.
The judgement for St Philip and St James church was handed down by Her Honour June Rodgers who is the Chancellor for Diocese of Gloucester.
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