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Church House, Westminster, starts its makeover 

10 June 2022

@ScottWhitbyStudios

Artist’s impression of the new entrance to Church House

Artist’s impression of the new entrance to Church House

A WHOLESALE renovation of Church House, Westminster, is to begin this month, upgrading the office space for existing and new tenants, as hybrid working arrangements reduce the demand for desk space.

The newly refurbished building will offer new opportunities to increase income from outside tenancies, besides improving the building’s carbon footprint, the Corporation of the Church House, which manages the building, has said.

Listed building consent has already been granted for the work inside the building, which is due to start this month. Planning applications for a “significant upgrade” of the office space will be submitted shortly.

The building, which dates from 1940, is adjacent to Westminster Abbey, and offers 22,000 square feet of floor space. Besides housing the Church of England’s central administration, including the Church Commissioners, the Archbishops’ Council, and the Pensions Board, it also offers space for conferences and events.

Church House is also home to offices of the diocese in Europe and Church House Bookshop, both of which are expected to move to different locations in the building.

@ScottWhitbyStudiosArtist’s impression of the reception

Profits from commercial events are paid back to the Church of England in the form of grants, and it is hoped that the upgrade will lead to increased income for the Church.

Last year, the Corporation gave the Church £1.72 million, which helped to cover the cost of its safeguarding work.

Such a comprehensive refurbishment had not been carried out for decades, the chief executive of the corporation, Stephanie Maurel, said. As well as the refurbishment of existing accommodation, the plans include a new entrance at the north door to let more light into the ground floor and make the building more inviting. The ceremonial entrance on Dean’s Yard will not be touched.

Building work is expected to be complete as soon as 2023. All eight tenants of the building will remain in place throughout.

The Corporation would not confirm how much was being spent on the renovation, but said that money for the works had been set aside for “a number of years”.

Its statement said: “The plans are great news for the future sustainability of Church House and its tenants; they will make it more visible in Westminster as well as making it possible for the Corporation to continue supporting the Church of England financially through the ongoing giving of grants.

“Unlike previous refurbishments, we will not be asking anyone to move out of the building, since with the massive co-operation of all concerned, we can work with the building in a way which we hope will cause minimum disruption.

“We look forward excitedly to the start of the work and even more to its completion, rejoicing that we will be able to make great strides towards carbon neutrality.”

@ScottWhitbyStudiosArtist’s impression of the offices

Part of the work to increase sustainability will include ensuring that it is a “carbon neutral” build, installing cork flooring, changing the temperature controls for the heating system, and, when it is installed, plugging into the ground-source heat pump that is intended to run down Great Smith Street into Parliament Square.

Staff of the Methodist Church are expected to move temporarily into some of the newly refurbished office space from the autumn, while their new building in Tavistock Place is renovated. The current Methodist Church House, in Marylebone, needed millions spent on repairs, and it was deemed no longer suitable. Smaller new oaccommodation is being renovated to be fully accessible.

A spokesman for the Church of England said that the national church institutions would occupy fewer floors in the building, and that this would open up space for new tenants. “Occupying less space, together with green adaptations being made as part of the renovations, will reduce our carbon footprint as part of the Church’s wider target to reach net zero carbon by 2030.”

Negotiations with the Corporation about the tenancy were still ongoing, he said.

The diocese in Europe said that it was “delighted to see the plans for Church House, and we are in discussion about what is best for us, going forward”.

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