St James' Facilities Block Project Updates
PLANNING APPLICATION ON HOLD
application for a facilities block at St James (providing accessible toilets
with a small kitchen and reception area) is currently withdrawn pending
archaelogical investigations. At the Pre-App consultation, WBC
Planning advised of 18 surveys recommended for a successful application,
however they omitted to advise of the applicable archaelogical
regulations. We are still waiting to learn what this involves
and the cost implications.
Historic England states "in general terms we consider the design to be suitable....a detached new building would be the least harmful way of providing the facilities needed .... situated close enough to be easily accessible from the church without impinging on key views or disturbing significant trees, recent graves or listed grave stones. The site proposed is the least harmful possible".
They also say "Historic England is well aware of the challenges facing
village churches ....expectations of minimum facilities....if historic churches
are to remain open (and the alternative, which is generally conversion to
housing, is deeply damaging to their significance)"
• To preserve the ancient historic and beautiful church for future generations to enjoy
• To ensure the future of the church as a place for prayer, worship and service of God, and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
• To make the church welcoming and accessible to all its current congregation
• To make the church welcoming, accessible and equipped to receive visitors both from nearby and far away
ST JAMES' PAST
• For over a millennium there has been a church here. The chancel contains paintings from 12th century, the nave and tower were built in early 17th century and the pews and organ date from the 19th century. The Civil war and the Great Plague account for some graves in the churchyard, and the clock tower commemorates lives lost in World War 1. Each generation has added something to the church, the responsibility now rests with us.
ST JAMES' PRESENT
• The congregation is part of the parish of Twyford and Ruscombe, and account for about a third of those on the Electoral Roll and PCC, and over 40% on the Stewardship scheme, taking part in all the varied activities of the parish.
• There are about 80 people in regular contact, some housebound, and average attendance on Sunday is 53.
• Total attendance in 2017 was nearly 4000, including baptisms, weddings and funerals. This includes children, people with limited mobility and some who have travelled long distances
• St James' has no toilet, no drains, and one sink, used for everything from communion vessels to floor mops, which drains into an open gutter.
• All storage is open to mice or bats.
• There is only one entrance (2 previous doors blocked off) and no area for buggies or mobility.
• Ideally new facilities would be within the building or as close to it as possible, but the church is too small and the unique brickwork (Grade 1 Listed) prohibits adding an extension.
• The land across the road was considered as a site for a Parish Hall. Facilities at that distance would still not be readily accessible to ministers and congregation in the church, and also the land would have to be purchased, adding to the project cost.
• The proposed site is to the north of the church, next to where the organ loft was added in the 19th century, screened by the church to the south, and on other sides by mature trees and hedges in the churchyard.
• It is the only place in the graveyard where the graves are untended, being over 100 years old, mostly illegible, and with no relatives traceable through the statuory channels. Buried remains would not be disturbed, and tombstones resited.
• Conservation advisers from Historic England and Oxford Diocese have given approval to the site- and also to the design as being appropriate to the location
• The building is small, in keeping with the church, which seats only 80-100.
• It will have accessible toilets, baby changing, and cleaning facilities.
• There will also be a small kitchen together with an area where refreshments could be served.
• It will also provide a covered reception area for big services
• The current cost estimate is in the region of £400,000, much of this being the drainage infrastructure.
• It is agreed that the Project will be responsible for raising funding independently of Ruscombe and Twyford PCC whose funds are already fully committed.
• Support for the project is such that around 12% of the total has been donated in advance of any appeals, and all costs to date fully met.
• Many of the congregation have indicated their willingness to give monthly to the project and help with fundraising activities.
• This will include applications for funding from grant-making bodies and local developers.
• There is also money obtainable for work on accessibility to reduce social isolation.
• A survey of the congregation showed that most people thought toilets were essential: to ensure that the church remained in use, that needs were met and dignity respected. Also to have cleanliness and hygiene.
• Many wanted the facilities so that the church could be a place of welcome- to its congregation, and to its many visitors, at services and at other times.
• Many referred to the ability to serve refreshments: for older members of the congregation to be able to sit down after the service and have a chat over a cuppa, to welcome people who travelled a long way to funerals, to welcome newcomers to the area and give them a place to meet.
• The church with facilities could be used for coffee mornings, and for small group activities, recitals, education, prayer days.
• The church would be better equipped to provide fellowship and prevent loneliness among its ageing congregation, as well as having a role in outreach and service in the community.