Maggie Durran: Hall in disrepair

by
30 March 2010

We have good potential users for our church hall, but they are put off by its poor state of repair. So we think we have three options: one is to sell the hall and reorder the church to provide facilities; another is to raise money to refurbish the hall; and the third is to raise enough money to rebuild the hall entirely to meet contem­porary standards. How do we decide?

There are several layers of information-seeking to undertake before you can make a decision; so you are right: it is not easy.

First, you should look at the permissions you would need for each of these options. Would you be able to get permission drastically to alter your church or rebuild your hall? Some research with the DAC and with the local-authority planning department might help you. The least contentious of the options, to planners or chancellors, would be the middle option, as it is the least disruptive.

Second, you can look at the issues from the viewpoint of parishioners who may use your new facilities. How much space do they need for their activities, and in which of your three options is the best use of space?

Third, knowing the space that is ideally needed by church and local people, you can discuss all three options with an architect. His or her advice would first address the func­tional questions of how the facilities might fit the space, and then how the aesthetic aspects of design might be addressed. On the latter, there will be a huge range of pricing options, and, in the present funding climate, I recommend that you look at the more economical end of the scale.

Fourth, what would the relative cost be, and how might you find the money? For the first option, the sale of the hall might provide the money for the changes, but I would recommend that you “spend” all your capital asset only if you can see how you can also rebuild that capital asset for the future. In other words, if you spend all your capital, and cannot see how to save for the future, next time your facilities are in disrepair you may lose your church. Set up this struc­ture only if you can see how to earn income from your adapted church to put capital back into the bank.

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For refurbishing your existing hall, it may be possible to do the work in stages, and to find com­munity partners as well as trusts who would invest in the building, such as a local authority looking for good facilities for work with the elderly or with children. But you must set up financial planning that keeps money in the bank for repairs as they arise, or before too many years you will be back with the same problem of a decrepit building.

For building a new hall, there may be local interest, and the possibility of getting permission, but assess how much money you can raise. More churches are opting for halls that are not architect-designed, brick-built constructions, but are more modular and less expensive. You will need to assess local sources as well as the trusts that might help fund you, and then set an affordable target.

Maggie.durran@virginmedia.com

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