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What about an extension?

15 February 2013

Our church has decided that adding an extension to our building is the best way to provide additional facilities, as we want not only lavatories and a kitchen, but also a meeting room. We notice that the Heritage Lottery Fund guidelines support the addition of facilities, but not extensions. What's going on? 

FIRST, to play devil's advocate: do you need, or want, an extension? Any alteration to a historic church must be led by pressing need. The need for added facilities will come from a thorough audit of the needs of both the church and local people, to find out what would definitely be used if it were there.

Also, you should be able to show that an additional meeting-room (and, indeed, the kitchen) would have sufficient use to justify its construction. It would have to be much more than the need for a Sunday schoolroom one day a week, or a kitchen for the Harvest Supper.

There are two factors involved here. First, are the people who, you hope, will pay for your extension, through grants or donations, prepared to expend a large sum on a seldom-used space? Having analysed your essential needs in numbers of users and frequency of use, you may find, as many do, that a small servery will suffice, and a meeting-room for occasional use can be devised at less cost inside the church.

The second factor is that your church is protected by laws re- garding heritage buildings. Under the faculty scheme, changes to ancient architecture are allowed if there is a pressing need, which has to be demonstrated in a thorough analysis. The need for lavatories seems to be without question, but other facilities, from extensions or new balconies to house meeting-rooms, are commonly less justified, and, if created, often lack daily use.

The intrusion into the building, and the related cost, must be clearly and emphatically justified. The case for changing your building, whether to create an extension or other large works, can be analysed and summarised by using the Statement of Need structure, as outlined on the website www.churchcare.co.uk.

If you are planning an extension because it seems preferable to making intrusive changes to your church interior, then the diocesan advisory committee, the Chancellor, and the amenity societies will expect to see a thorough and reasoned examination of options for the location of facilities - both their internal and external placement.

This option analysis can be prepared by your architect, who can outline several possible means by which you might meet the needs described in the conclusion to your Statement of Need. Expect to explain each of these options to the relevant authorities, giving the reasons for your preferred option. Remember that the preferred option may often be the "least worst" rather than self-evidently the best.

If you stick with your preference for an extension, the Heritage Lottery Fund may not help you through their Repair Scheme for Places of Worship, and you would have to make a very different case to qualify under its other funding streams.

Other funding bodies who have, on the whole, far smaller funds, will also not want to fund an expensive project if there is a realistic, workable, more economic alternative available.

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