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Church submits ambitious plans for £5m community hub

New facility will include a lounge area with coffee shop

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper

dan.cooper@newburynews.co.uk

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Church submits ambitious plans for £5m community hub

NEWBURY Baptist Church has submitted ambitious plans for a £5m expansion to create a state-of-the-art community hub in the town.

The new facility will include a lounge area with coffee shop where people could go to work or relax, as well as a multi-purpose area which could be used by community groups, eight meeting rooms and office space.

Newbury Baptist Church senior minister The Rev Richard Littledale said he saw it as “an investment in the town”, adding that it would be “for the whole community, not just the church community”.

So far, just under £1.1m has been raised through donations and the sale of property and the church is now hoping more organisations will come forward to help fund the rest.

If plans are approved, the church hopes to be able to start the project next summer and wants to have the building finished by the end of 2021 to tie in with the completion of the adjacent Market Street development.

The church will close for 18 months while the work is taking place, meaning members of the congregation, along with the 17 community groups that use it, will have to relocate during that time.

It is currently in discussions with those groups and organisations, which include the homeless charity Loose Ends, to find suitable alternative accommodation.

The main part of the church, which was built in 1989, will be retained, but the rest of it will be demolished to make way for a two-storey extension.

There will be a new access from Mayor’s Lane, in addition to the existing entrance from Cheap Street.

The 16 parking spaces outside the church will be lost, but some disabled parking will remain.

In the main part of the church, the worship space will be switched to the opposite side.

On Sundays, this will be where the main service takes place – but for the rest of the week it will double up as a 200-seat auditorium, available to rent for functions and other events.

The design of the new building will also be carbon neutral.

Church member Paul Davey, who is leading the project, said: “The church has been in Newbury since 1640 and in this building since the 1930s and we thought it was time we looked at the future and what we can do with it.

“Everyone we have spoken to says it [the community hub] is what the town centre needs.

“We are talking to 16 different charities in Newbury town centre who are all looking for a location they can use”.

Mr Davey added: “It [the design] breaks the mould of what people think a church should be.

“It is not going to be an ancient building with cold pews and hard chairs.”

Church member Claire Smith said: “You have got all these charities doing really great work – it would be nice for them to have access to a central location.

“We are not trying to convert everyone who walks through the door. That is not what we are trying to do.

“It is about serving the community and having somewhere they feel safe.”

Newbury Baptist Church originally started in a small room above Camp Hopson department store.

It then moved to its current site in Cheap Street in 1939, during the Second World War.

It currently has around 200 members, with around 130 to 140 attending every Sunday morning.

To find out more about the project or to donate money to help the church reach its target, visit www.newburybaptistchurch.org/Buildproject

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