Sunday, 05 December 2021

Plans for community hub re-submitted to council

PLANS to extend the church in Bix to make it a community hub have been re-submitted.

The parochial church council at St James’s Church wants to create a new kitchen and toilet block.

The single-storey extension to the rear of the building involves reconfiguring the pews, allowing a meeting space to be created for clubs and social events.

An identical application was submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council in 2018, which was approved, but the permission expired before the work could go ahead.

It will cost roughly £330,000 to complete the project and about 75 per cent of this has already been achieved.

The church council says: “We believe that with these changes, we can better provide a church for the modern community, increase its usage by a wide range of local villagers and community groups and provide the meeting space hub they currently lack. This will truly establish St James’s as fit for future purpose and preserve the heritage of this wonderful building.

“Local support for these changes is strong and the commitment to help raise money to fund this important work is encouraging. With wider support, we believe the church can continue to provide opportunities for spiritual growth and religious observance, but also as a venue fit for the future, helping us to build a deeper and more united community.”

The church council decided to focus on improving the church after it sold the village hall to the parish council in 2009.

Bix Montessori School became the primary user of the hall which secured the future of the venue but this has meant there is now nowhere for other children and community groups to use. Organisations such as what was the Café on the Common and the Women’s Institute and art classes have had to find somewhere else to go.

The church council says it can solve this problem by extending the church. It said: “We see the potential for this wonderful building to meet the current unmet need of our local population and serve as a multi-purpose community hub.”

The church was built in 1874 as the original Norman church at Bix Bottom was replaced by a new building at the top of the hill.

The design of the extension will use traditional materials with a tiled roof, flint-faced walls and plinths. Following a recent inspection, it was identified that the heating system at the grade II listed church needed to be replaced.

A design and access statement, submitted by Oxley Conservation, says: “Improvements are necessary for the church to remain in active use by the congregation and by the wider community to prevent decline and deterioration.”

The plans are supported by Bix and Assendon Parish Council and a conservation officer at the district council, which is due to make a decision by next Wednesday.

Ina Chantry, who chairs the council, said: “I think it is a really good idea and provides a way of enabling people to access the church for purposes other than just church services. It will allow the church to play a role that is more modern within the community.”

To make a donation to the project, visit donate.giveasyoulive.com/
charity/stjamesbix

You can also pay a cheque to treasurer Kevin Duthie, 6 Mill Close, Middle Assendon, Henley, RG9 6BA.

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