The latest changes
For some years, discussions had taken place about the need to provide improved access for the disabled and those with walking difficulties. For a time, a ramp was thought to be the answer, but it was eventually concluded that it would be impossible to satisfy the regulations about gradient.
In 2011, several options were debated, including adding an extension at the front of the building to provide a lift, selling the building and buying another (the village library had been closed and was being sold) and merging with another Church. The discussions included consideration of our mission and how best to deliver it.
The overwhelming vote was to remain in the building and adapt it, so the extension idea was proceeded with and an architect engaged. This scheme failed to achieve planning permission, so alternatives were sought, plans agreed and planning permission achieved.
We had been advised to create a comprehensive plan of all the needs, which could be achieved in stages. Accordingly, we developed proposals for development in 4 stages and started to apply for grants. The Church Members gave unanimous commitment to the scheme and pledged money over and above their normal contributions to support the repayment of a loan offered by the Circuit. In fact, the pledges came to over twice the amount of the loan and the extra was paid early to enable work to start. Together with successful grant applications, this enabled all the work to be done in a single phase, apart from restoration of the windows and provision of secondary glazing.
The contracted work replaced the original steps with a new enclosed porch at street level, provided a new lobby floor inside, also at street level, with stairs up to the worship area and down to the floor underneath. A lifting platform serves all 3 floor levels. An access toilet and kitchenette on the top floor makes this independent. Removal of the communion rail and side pews, plus moving the front of the pulpit back against the wall generated an almost equal space to that lost at the opposite end.
Large steel beams support the top floor, enabling removal of the old central pillars. We replaced the steep staircase between the floors with a modern one with wider treads and included replacement of the kitchen to modern hygiene catering standards.
As work progressed, further grants were awarded. So, we decided to extend the kitchen, including a section of worktop suitable for a wheelchair user, update the downstairs toilet and add an extra toilet, with a new porch at the rear, replace the front boundary wall and buy a new notice board.
The architect for the scheme was Kenneth Holmes of Vagdia and Holmes and the main contractor was A J Lynn. Work started in September 2015 and was finished in time for reopening on 6th March 2016.