Village hopes to buy church

ONE of East Anglia's smallest villages may buy its parish church - with the long-term aim of turning it into a community centre,The centuries-old St George's Church at Thwaite, near Eye, is in the process of being declared redundant as the result of declining congregations and an “unaffordable” repairs bill.

By David Green

ONE of East Anglia's smallest villages may buy its parish church - with the long-term aim of turning it into a community centre,

The centuries-old St George's Church at Thwaite, near Eye, is in the process of being declared redundant as the result of declining congregations and an “unaffordable” repairs bill.

Residents of the village, population 100, fear that the building - if offered for sale on the open market - could be converted into a home or used for business.


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Thwaite does not currently have a village hall, meetings being held in the small, former school room.

Discussions have taken place with diocesan officials over the future of the church, including the possibility of the building being sold to the village for a “token” amount of money once it has been declared redundant.

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The talks follow the failure of a previous “dual use” project to avoid redundancy by getting National Lottery and European funding to make the nave available for both religious services and community activities.

“There were too many obstacles in the way to this idea being pursued any further and we are now looking into the possibility of the diocese making the church redundant and passing ownership to the village,” said Peter Gammage, chairman of the Thwaite Community Projects Group.

“This would permit the parish to maintain control over the future of the building. We could carry out repairs and maintenance as money became available and, by licence, a number of religious services could still be held there each year.

“There is community-owned land nearby capable of providing space for a car park and conversion of the building to accommodate public facilities would not be excessively expensive,” he said.

The last estimate for essential repairs to the church was £45,000 and, even with grants, the small number of church members considered they had no chance of raising the target.

However, Mr Gammage said the Community Projects Group would have access to other funding sources and repairs could be carried out in phases.

He thought English Heritage would prefer the Grade II* building's interior space to be kept as it was, rather than divided up into rooms as with a residential conversion.

Archdeacon of Suffolk, the Venerable Geoffrey Arrand, was unavailable for comment yesterday but Rev Nick Clarke, diocesan communications officer, said: “Discussions are continuing and all the options will be investigated.”

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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