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Wolverhampton church hall demolition plan to raise cash

By Gurdip Thandi | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Officials at a cash-strapped Wolverhampton church are looking to demolish its vandal-hit old hall to build new bungalows and raise much-needed funds.

St Mary the Virgin Church in Gorge Road, Wolverhampton. Photo: AB Heritage

St Mary the Virgin, in Gorge Road, Hurst Hill, has put forward plans to Wolverhampton Council in an effort to refurbish the existing Grade II listed church building and safeguard its future.

The application, put forward by Reverend Tim Westwood, would see permission granted for the hall – which has been closed since 2016 – to be bulldozed and a couple of two bedroomed bungalows built in its place.

If approved, the land will be sold with the permission in place, to generate much needed cash.

A previous inspection revealed £30,000 worth of repairs needed to be carried out on the church, while a further £25,000 was required to refurbish the hall.

Officials said they could only cover the cost of the church repairs and the hall was closed.

Some activities were moved to the church building but for others to continue, a further £290,000 would be required for new facilities.

Since the church hall closed, bosses said it has been hit by vandalism and antisocial behaviour problems.

They added, that if the application is refused it could threaten the long-term future of the church – especially if hit with unexpected building issues in future.

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Agents PJ Planning said: “As well as repairs to the church hall in the order of £25,000, a quinquennial inspection identified an urgent need to spend more than £30,000 on repairs to the fabric of the church.

“Unable to fund all of these costs, the church was forced to close the church hall and focus efforts on saving the Grade II listed church building.

Unsustainable

“All repairs to the church were successfully undertaken but all financial reserves were emptied.

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“St Mary’s now has no reserves; an existing debt to the Diocese of £40,000 has had to be written off because there was no possibility of it ever being paid.

“The church hall is now unused and in an extremely poor condition; as such, it has become a focus for vandalism, theft and antisocial behaviour, and there are no resources for its upkeep or demolition.

“Upon closure of the hall a number of activities moved into the church building utilising the large open space at the west end.

“A study group for school aged children proved to be unsustainable without the presence of toilet facilities.

“In order to cater for sustainable community and church activities certain works need to be carried out within the church.

“These include, for example, the necessary toilets, a kitchen and a meeting room.

“The full cost of the development is approximately £290,000, with the cost of Phase 1 (toilets and kitchen) being £90,000.

“Covid-19 has, of course, made the situation considerably worse; without income from weddings and funerals, church finances may well be depleted further, leaving it in debt by the end of the year.

“Refusal of this application will mean that the derelict hall will remain as a magnet for anti-social behaviour; the continued and permanent loss of services previously provided by the hall; and ultimately, the closure of the church itself, as its upkeep becomes unsustainable.”

Gurdip Thandi

By Gurdip Thandi
@Gurdo

Local Democracy Reporter covering Walsall.

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