St Peter's - needs for the 21st century
A vision of the future
The Revd. Patrick Angier was appointed as vicar of St Peter's in 2006 and in November that year the PCC held an “Away Day” at Lyme Park to look at the "Vision and Values" of the church asking: “What do we want our church to be 20 or more years down the road?” and “Beyond the horizons of our present lives what should be the legacy we leave behind?”
The discussion covered four areas:
- Education and nurture
- Pastoral care, outreach and social fellowship
Following that PCC "Away Day" meeting a Feasibility Group was set up which further developed a "vision", and produced a Feasibility Report in early 2008, which was circulated to all households in Prestbury.
While the Feasibility Group were working the precarious state of the roof of Ford House become apparent and this led to withdraw of Public Liability insurance by the church's insurance company.
Enforced closure of Ford House
The structural status of Ford House was extensively examined in the "Feasibility Report" and although the unsafe roof led to its closure, there were many other problems including:
- Dampness due to solid walls with no damp course
- Areas of defective rendering
- Wet and dry rot in structural timbers
- Beetle infestation
- Archaic electrical wiring
- Heating pipework and radiators that did not efficiently heat the building.
In addition this old building, which was designed as a dwelling place in the 19th century, had deficiencies with respect to modern expectations for "disabled access", "fire safety" and "environmental health", that limited its usefulness.
The financial cost of all the repair work to bring Ford House up to a good standard that would enable its continued use by the church well into the future was so high that the PCC could see no other option than to close and sell Ford House. The funds raised would be used to provide modern replacement facilities meeting current church needs.
Ford house was closed in May 2007 and the groups using it (mostly church) were quickly relocated to alternative accomm- odation in Prestbury.
The Junior Youth Club moved to the Village Hall and in July 2007 adopted a new Constitution which broke its connection with St Peter's.
What does the church need?
An analysis by the Feasibility Group looking at the facilities needed by the church in the 21st century was already underway when Ford House had to be closed.
The deficiencies of Ford House were already apparent when looking at accommodation needs (see Blue Panel).
It was clear that the best solution would be to provide new ancillary spaces attached directly to church and this led to a long process where various options were explored.
However, the development plans were totally dependent on funding from the proceeds of the sale of Ford House.
Sale or development of the Ford House site: the street view we tried to save
The first attempt to sell Ford House in 2008 met with resistance from the village and although a buyer was found, the PCC agreed to give representatives from the village 6 months to raise funds to acquire the property.
Funds were not raised but also the buyer was unable complete the purchase and lost his deposit.
The church subsequently looked at options to develop the Ford House site by demolishing the worn-out Ford House and replacing it with a new building.
This would have been built using modern construction methods, have had the same sized footprint as Ford House and a front facia that would have retain the "street scene". It would have provided a replacement Parish Office and three flats all owned by the church. The flats could be useful to house church staff and could have provided some rental income.
To the rear of Ford House a block of town houses would have been built, the sale of which could have funded the rebuild of Ford House and an annex on the north east corner of St Peter's church.
However, this Planning Application was refused by Cheshire East Council because of adverse impact on trees of amenity value on this site, which is within Prestbury Conservation Area.
Immediately after planning refusal tree protection orders were applied to most of the trees on the site which restricted development options so that Ford House had to again be put up for sale.
Fortunately a buyer was found and the sale was completed in February 2013
Church ancillary needs:
In 2007 the church was well supported with an average weekly attendance at services of 368 and by the end of 2013 this total attendance had increased by 27%.
This includes many families with small children and babies (approx 22% of congregation are under 16 years old), but there are no toilets or baby change facilities.
For the main Sunday morning Service there is a crèche and three Young Church groups, but the spaces for their meetings are totally inadequate (crèche shares choir vestry, other groups in Norman Chapel and the meeting room and Parish Office in a flat across the road).
The vicar's and choir vestries are also totally inadequate for their primary purposes with inadequate storage space for clergy vestments and choir robes and music, and very unsatisfactory facilities to prepare for and clear up after Holy Communion.
As there is no kitchen, the south porch has to be used for brewing and serving of refreshments after services.
The only available toilet is in the first floor flat where the Parish Office is located, so it is inaccessible to anyone with restricted mobility.
Development of plans for ancillary facilities on the church site
In parallel with the attempts to sell or develop Ford House site, the church consulted with the congregation and village community to exploring several options for ancillary facilities to be built within the churchyard, or adjacent to it.