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WHY THIS PROJECT?

St. Peter’s Church is already active in our local community: supporting young people through toddler group, Guiding and the Lordsmead Playgroup; the disabled via the Tom Metcalfe Centre’s use of our facilities; Wiltshire Wildlife Trust; and the local Parish Council. We want to maintain and improve the facilities and service that  we provide to our local community for the future

WHY THIS NAME

We wanted a name to reflect what we were trying to achieve through this project.

Cornerstone is a building block fundamental to the structural integrity of a building, giving it firm foundations for the future,  so it was highly appropriate to a project seeking to conserve our current facilities and their Roper heritage.

We area church situated upon a corner, so it is a name which physically locates us in our community.

We want to be central to the life of our local community through the facilities, services and welcome that we offer. What better way of expressing the hope to be an essential and  integral building block of that community, knitted into its very fabric.

In Old Testament predictions of the coming of a Messiah, Isaiah says: “So this is what the sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.  I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line’.  Jesus refers to himself as ‘the cornerstone’ (Mathew 21). His church would be built upon a unified body of believers, so the name reflects an important element of our faith.

WHY NOW?

We have a problem in that our church has ‘concrete cancer’. This is a failure of pre-cast concrete used in the construction of postwar non-traditional buildings. Basically water penetration and/or the presence of chloride cause the reinforcement rods to rust and expand resulting in concrete cracking. You can see the effects through this link. Various preventative measures have been taken but we now have to take more fundamental action.  This is not only to protect the structure and safety of its users, but also to preserve the art and design heritage of the artist Frank Roper which is present throughout our church in etched and stained glass and caste aluminium decorations. (If you follow this link you can find out more about Roper and his work at St. Peter’s)

A CHALLENGE AND AN OPPORTUNITY?
We appreciate that this is a considerable challenge, but also saw an opportunity to ensure that our facilities continue to make a significant contribution to our local community in the years to come. What if we could identify our local community’s needs and address the concrete cancer at the same time?

HOW DID WE IDENTIFY COMMUNITY NEEDS?
So we carried out a local community survey to establish what further facilities and activities would be of benefit to you. We did this in February 2014 and you can see the results through this link.  The facilities which achieved the highest 4 rankings on the basis of total votes cast were:

Community coffee bar/cafe;

Dance/Drama/Music/Arts space;

First Aid classes; and

Exercise classes.

Amongst those with the highest number of top three placements from various analysis rankings, it was these four facilities which again predominated. We also approached our existing major users – the Tom Metcalfe Centre (TMC) and Lordsmead Playgroup – to seek their needs and help them to meet their full potential for the longer term. They indicated a need for self-contained and enhanced facilities which would allow them to meet safeguarding requirements and permit future expansion.

WHAT THE PROJECT THEN LOOKED LIKE
We asked our architects to look at how we could meet all those various needs as part of our development effort by providing new purpose built facilities for flexible community usage as well as reordering existing space (eg. better audio-visual equipment, lighting, staging in the church for performance arts and exhibitions).  They carried out a full feasibility study and proposed a project that would provide:

  • A new community cafe to the front of the church with web linked access to community services;
  • A secure cloistered area behind the cafe for social interaction and play/activities.
  • A performance area within the church and flexible exhibition space for displays etc. providing greater accessibility to the work of Frank Roper and linking this to the arts in general.
  • Enhanced kitchen facilities in the hall to allow life skills teaching by the TMC and others.
  • Enhanced facilities for the playgroup to provide a fully secure area with a staff room and reading area.
  • The demolition of the current narthex and its replacement with a more welcoming face to the world;
  • Repairs to the concrete cancer impacted areas of the facilities to ensure their continued availability for the future and safeguard our Roper heritage.

You can see an artist’s impression of the new facilities then proposed through this link, and also here.

A FURTHER COMMUNITY CONSULTATION

From 2nd-6th November 2015 we held an open community consultation , displaying our plans in the church each day, together with answers to some of the questions frequently asked about the proposed development. On the final evening we held an informal session in the church hall, where questions could be asked, and concerns aired, about what was proposed.  The result of the consultation were very positive, with overwhelming support being expressed for the proposed developments.

 WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

We received the final drawings from our architects in mid 2016. These were submitted to Wiltshire Council for formal full planning approval just before Christmas and this was granted for a 3 year period on 1 March 2017. A submission to the Diocesan Advisory Committee for a faculty to cover the development was also required and this was given in April.  The Diocesan approval originally provided for a one year period for completion, but was subsequently extended to two years.

TESTING THE WATER

The total cost of this ambitious project was in the order of £1.5M. We needed to raise a lot of money, especially from grant giving organisations, to make it happen.  We could not achieve it from our own resources alone, much as we might have liked to. Therefore, before proceeding further, it was decided to obtain the views of potential major grant givers on the project proposals. Regrettably their response in late 2017 was not positive on affordability grounds. It was therefore necessary to look at the whole project again to see if it would be possible to restructure it to achieve a greater chance of future success.

2018 – RECONSIDERATION AND REORIENTATION

The Church Council had to look again at the scope of the project, but were adamant that they still wished to preserve its community aspects, and our Roper heritage, in any future proposals.

As a first step the Diocesan Advisory Committee were again consulted and gave advice on the way ahead. This suggested an initial focus on the Roper Peter Window and the seeking of further advice from specialist concrete repair companies. Three companies were approached and their views passed to our architects for analysis. On careful consideration our architects advised that replacement rather than repair remained a more certain solution to the underlying problem and in establishing actual costs.

The Council therefore agreed in November 2018 that:

 The Peter Window

replacement not repair was the preferred solution to the concrete cancer, ensuring a cure and not bequeathing the problem to future generations;

comprehensive documents should be prepared by our architects, giving a specification/schedule of works to permit competitive pricing item by item;

an Institute of Conservation (ICON) accredited conservator should be approached for a report giving their recommendations for removing/reinstalling the Peter Windows.

Other Improvements

Remaining Cornerstone plan elements should be updated and priced by the architects to reflect a scaled back approach which retained hall and meeting room enhancements, to improve community facilities, with the possible creation of a servery as part of the worship space instead of the original new build cafe.

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

This additional, but necessary, work is now underway.  The ICON survey has been conducted and recommended a trial removal of a small pane of glass from the Peter window to assess techniques needed for the preservation work. This will reduce risk in helping to inform the technical specification to permit companies to tender for the task.

Revised Cornerstone community elements have been redesigned and costed. Plans for these improvements, which unfortunately no longer include a purpose built cafe or cloistered area, can be found here.

We are keen to proceed with the trial window removal as quickly as possible, but unfortunately our Diocesan faculty expired in April.  We had hoped for an extension but the Diocesan Advisory Committee have required a completely new application. Until this is received we cannot proceed further.  We are hopeful of a positive response when the submission is considered in mid-May.

Even with progress on all these fronts, the funding environment remains very challenging.  We continue to be committed to doing everything possible to try and achieve a result which ensures that this church, its heritage and valuable community facilities, are preserved for the benefit of all for the future. Your continuing prayers and support for the project would be much appreciated.

http://saint-peters.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/0303.P.100-Floor-Plans-As-Propsoed-A1_rev-.pdf