by John Williams.
A long-awaited proposal to build an extension at St Luke's, Goostrey, to ensure the parish church continues as a traditional place of worship as well as meeting the needs of a modern congregation, has been unveiled.
The Grade II listed church at the centre of the historic heart of the the village dates from the late 18th century when it was rebuilt in brick after the timber-framed 13th-century building was finally deemed unfit for purpose.
Now in an ambitious plan, the Parochial Church Council is seeking permission to demolish an earlier 20th-century extension and replace it with up-to-date facilities, including new toilets and a social area it is hoped will be a hub for the whole community.
Unlike the existing Georgian building, the new works will return to the more traditional materials of many of Cheshire's medieval churches and will be faced in red sandstone and include a large contemporary glazed area.
Cheshire East Council planners have been told the scale of the proposal will not significantly harm the setting of the listed building.
An extension to the church has been under discussion for several decades and to meet the needs of disabled worshippers and visitors it is also proposed to replace the steps at the gates with a lift for wheelchair access.
A document in support of the application says the requirement to alter the church to provide much-needed facilities was identified over thirty years ago.
Financial donations have already been received for this project, which shows the level of support. Due to various circumstances, such as two previous vicars being ill and long interregnums, St Luke’s have been unsuccessful in fulfilling these needs, however are now in a position to move forward. There is an urgent requirement for the proposals to be provided now, to ensure that St Luke’s continues to cater for the needs of families, the infirm and the wider community. St Luke’s would also like to see the church become more of a hub within the village setting.
The proposals are justified by the PCC as follows:
The current outside toilet facility is not accessible, unheated and poses a safety risk. It is not DDA compliant (the Disabled Discrimination Act) and has not got a nappy changing facility.
The current catering facilities are temporarily situated at the back of the church and are unsuitable and present potential health and safety risk, due to the use of temporary tables, the lack of washing up facilities, clean storage.
Currently an outside tap is used for washing up. There is a general lack of storage space and everything currently gets stored in the choir vestry. The choir vestry is too small and cluttered and additional space is needed for the choir to robe and disrobe in a larger and more private space.
The additional social space is needed for refreshments, fellowship, meetings, one to one conversations and private prayer. The current bell tower access is outside of the church in a back alleyway and is not suitable for health and safety. There is no space within the footprint of the church building to create the proposed facilities without removing more pews. The PCC does not want to do this as it will reduce the congregation capacity and be detrimental to the character of the church. There is no safe wheelchair access from the gate to the church path. There is currently a portable ramp, which is heavy and difficult to use. An ageing congregation needs to find an alternative way to provide wheelchair access.
The Rev Heather Buckley, who became vicar at St Luke's in March 2018, has welcomed the proposal and said people had coped with the current facilities for many years and making the most of the limitations as they offered hospitality to others.
"Without adequate kitchen facilities, refreshments and utensils have been carried up and down the path before and after events and prior to all services, without complaint but certainly under pressure," she said.
She added: "The church building is treasured within the village and by the people of St Luke's. Our responsibility is two-fold, for people and for the building we inherit. We long to see it passed on to future generations, fit for purpose and used appropriately in as many ways as possible to serve the village and its community. The latest plans are a way to fulfil that desire of the heart."
Comments about the proposal have to be made to Cheshire East Council before July 5 and it is planned to hold an online Zoom meeting on June 22 at a time to be announced when questions can be raised.
The scheme is lodged under planning number 21/2774C