AN £11-million Christian centre in north London which will include a 450-seater auditorium, recording studio, and accommodation for vulnerable young people, has secured planning permission.
The Lighthouse is a project of Holy Trinity, Swiss Cottage. Granted planning permission earlier this month by Camden Council, it will replace the church’s existing building, which will be demolished.
Holy Trinity, opposite Finchley Road Station, was built in the 1970s and is not listed. The church’s planning application states that the building is no longer big enough to accommodate services and activities — the average weekly attendance is 160 — and that the project represents a desire to “extend its commitment to working within the local community”. It envisages that, once the Lighthouse is open, an additional 300 people will become involved in the church.
The majority of the hundreds of public consultation responses — many submitted by members of the church, but including contributions from residents near by — are positive. Rabbi Shlomo Levin, of South Hampstead Synagogue, wrote that the Lighthouse would make “a strong architectural statement about the positive role of faith-based charities addressing the pressing needs of our modern society”. Some residents of the neighbouring residential building have raised concerns, however, about noise and security.
It is proposed that the Lighthouse will occupy six storeys. Three flats for vulnerable young people — “The Ark” — will be run by St Christopher’s Fellowship, a charity that supports homeless young people and care leavers. There will also be two flats for C of E ordinands.
Other spaces will host health and fitness facilities, children’s soft play, counselling, self-help recovery groups, and an emergency winter night-shelter. Holy Trinity already runs a shelter, and works with young people through the SPEAR programme, which offers employment training, and XLP, which offers mentoring and support.
One of the church’s assistant curates, the Revd Kristin Breuss, said after the news of acceptance that the Lighthouse would “add much needed beauty to Finchley Road, and be a place of community, sanctuary, and social transformation. At a time when people are feeling increasingly unsafe, divided, and isolated, I can’t think of a more important way to use land, air, and money to make the world a better place.”
Designed by Haworth Tompkins architects, it includes a large rose window in the façade. A big fund-raising effort is now under way: the church seeks to raise half of the total from within its network — it has already raised £3 million — and half from individual donations, grants, and loans. It hopes to open the new building within three years.