Sunday, 13 June 2021

New £400,000 church annexe for community wins approval

A NEW £400,000 annexe at St Mary’s Church in Wargrave is a step closer

A NEW £400,000 annexe at St Mary’s Church in Wargrave is a step closer after the plans were approved by Wokingham Borough Council.

The extension at the Station Road church will provide a meeting place for community groups such as Mill Green Women’s Institute, which currently uses the nearby Hannen Room. 

The design for the timber annexe has already been agreed by English Heritage and the Oxford diocese.

Project co-ordinator Bob Austen said: “We are very pleased — gaining planning permission was a big step forward. It has been a long time coming as the idea for the extension was first mooted about 25 years ago.

“Through various incarnations we have come up with a beautiful design which appealed to Enlish Heritage, the council and residents.

“We have now got a really good architect and surveyor from the church family who are working on it.

“The annexe will give the church a lot more opportunity to reach out to the community. It’s going to be invaluable.”

The annexe will contain two meeting rooms, a cafe and toilets and there will be access to the north porch of the church. The mainframe will be built from steel girders with timber for non-load bearing walls. 

It will then be covered in glass-reinforced concrete panels, while the roof will use copper sheeting. 

The windows and doors of the extension will be made from stained European oak while the north- and west-facing meeting rooms will have full-length glass walls to improve the natural lighting.

The church still needs to raise £200,000 to complete the first phase of the project, which includes construction, and the same amount for the second phase, which includes installing a power supply, interior work and furnishings. 

The first phase should take four months and if all the money is raised in time, the annexe could be finished inside a year. 

A memorial garden will also be built between the north porch and the annexe as part of the project.

English Heritage rejected the original plans in 2013 but changed its mind after the church agreed to use timber frames. 

More than £70,000 has already been raised for the project through the 21st Century Project appeal, with events including a quiz night and talks from local celebrities such as former ITN news reader Norman Rees.

Part of this money came from the £240,000 previously raised by the appeal with the rest of that being spent on improvements to the church including a new sound system and a creche.

The appeal will also get £10 from every sale of Lost and Found in the Pulpit, the memoirs of former Wargrave vicar Rev John Ratings, who died in December 2014.

The book is available from Victoria News in Victoria Road and the Bull and the Old Post Office Cafe in High Street.

The church will also seek grants and donations from trust funds.

Mr Austen said: “We are in the process of preparing a new project brochure which we can use to send to fund-raising agencies and trusts.

“This facility is for the benefit of the whole community and we want everybody to feel that they are part of it.”

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