Maggie Durran: What people ‘need’

29 June 2011

We want to adapt our listed church, and have been working on getting per­mission from the necessary auth­orities. How much detail do we need to include on a Statement of Need? To say that we need a lavatory, or dis­abled access, seems so obvious.

AN IMPORTANT element that is missing on most of the Statements of Need that I see is the audit that identifies the actual users of the building who require that facility to be in place.

It is very easy — even obvious — to say that people want a lavatory, but the issue with a Statement of Need is to measure the actual need. How many people will want to use it, and how often? You need potential users of the building to speak for themselves.

It is no longer acceptable, either to those who give permission or to those who might help you to finance the building work, to say that if you had the work done you are sure that people would flock in. On too many occasions, this has not been the case.

Giving permission for adaptations to a historic building when only a handful of people will be added to the list of annual users is far less justifiable than if hundreds — or even thousands — will benefit. A church will need to show where its numbers will come from.

A well-prepared audit, which iden­tifies and quantifies demand for space, and identifies the benefits that will result from the availability of activities in that space, will fit into the headings of a well-prepared Statement. The “need” in question is not so much the actual building works but the need of people.

So, for example, if people in the area want a monthly music concert in the church, those attending for a sociable evening would want and ex­pect a lavatory and a servery. De-scribe the activity, the numbers, the sorts of people, and then describe the options you have for providing, say, the requisite facilities. Consider a Portaloo outside, or a lavatory in the vestry area, and so on. Report on the reasons why various choices are in the frame. Then describe your chosen option with the practical reasons and the impact it has on the historic building.


Once you have defined the needs and benefits, you can also consider who might help you build the lavatory. If the main increase is for arts provision, then outside funders who are interested in promoting the arts might help you. If the main beneficiaries will be the elderly and infirm, then there are other sources you can approach. Your Statement of Need, prepared in a framework pro­vided by the church sector, will also help you to make an appropriate case for funders who are not interested in religion.

Bear in mind that there are far fewer funds available now, and that your plans should be modest, and, as far as possible, phased. Do note also that in the present climate it is difficult for churches, whose main purpose is not arts, heritage, or com­munity provision, to compete for funds from Lottery sources.


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