Lowestoft church turned into community hub
2010: St Andrew’s Church, Lowestoft in the community of Roman Hill is today celebrating the half way mark of its ambitious Access All Areas project to transform totally the existing church building into a hub for the local community.
On Thursday July 8, the first half of the building to be renovated was handed back by building contractors Blackburns Construction Limited, for use by community groups and the church congregation, ready for building work to begin on the other half.
All existing groups and Sunday services will continue during the building work, using the brand new facilities.
The children of the St. Andrew’s Playgroup are excited about moving to the new hall, having seen and heard the builders working over the last four months.
Julie Napthine, one of the staff at the pre-school, said: “The children call them ‘Bob with a different coloured hat’. One child said ‘wow’ when we pointed out that we will still be the same but in a different room.”
The trail-blazing Access All Areas project has flowed from the active involvement of the church in the local community for over 100 years and the congregation’s vision to use the building to make a difference to the lives of local residents.
Mark McCaghrey, the Vicar, said: “In 2003 we asked the local community what they wanted to see in the local area. They said that they wanted more local facilities and more activities for all ages, but there is nowhere in the community to put new buildings. So we started planning how our building could bridge the gap.”
Before the builders came on site in March, the hall was well used but the rest of the building was inflexible, cold in winter, and unable to meet the needs of the community, one of the most deprived in Suffolk.
The completed first half of the building project has transformed the church by installing insulation and modern heating and lighting systems so that it can be used as second hall as well as being a space for prayer and worship. There is a brand new kitchen and meeting facilities.
The other half of the project will see the hall refurbished, an extension built to accommodate an office, improved toilet facilities and the central area of the building opened up for a community café.
The whole project will cost £700,000, funded by a range of local and national funding groups and individuals, including the Big Lottery Fund Community Building Programme, Lowestoft Together, WREN and the Diocese of Norwich. Building work is expected to finish by the end of the year.
The Access All Areas project makes St. Andrew’s one of the first Churches in Norfolk and Waveney to extend its use in this way. In addition to providing new activities for people of all ages, the project will also enable the playgroup to provide additional sessions and other existing activities such as parents and tots and Cocaine Anonymous to expand. It will allow easier access to the award winning community garden behind the hall and make St. Andrew’s a place that brings the community together.
Gill Gabb, Churchwarden, said: “We are regularly approached by organisations and individuals asking if they can use the premises for ‘one off’ events or regular activities. We are looking forward to the end of the building work when we will have the space to offer people somewhere to come for a chat or for groups to hold different activities”.
Pictured above are the inside and outside of the new-look St Andrew's Church in Lowestoft.