Five years on: end in sight to Garstang church hall project

Photo Neil Cross
Rev Stephen Grey in the new community hub next to St Thomas's church on Church St, Garstang
Photo Neil Cross Rev Stephen Grey in the new community hub next to St Thomas's church on Church St, Garstang

Parishioners at St Thomas’s Church, Garstang, are rejoicing at the news that their on / off new church hall project will be complete by the end of the year.

Work on the building of the new hall came to a halt five years ago, with the church authorities facing huge financial headaches – and leaving the hall only partially built.

Now though the shortfall in funds has been slashed following the long-awaited sale of the old parish hall to developers.

The £275,000 cash paid for the old hall – which developers plan to convert into four homes – will be used to kick-start the completion of the hall.

After five years of uncertainty over finance and difficulty in selling the old hall and gaining approval for the homes conversion, the recent sale of the old hall has brought renewed confidence to St Thomas’s.

Vicar of St Thomas’s Father Stephen Grey has already 
invited the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, to 
give the project his blessing during a diocesan visit in September.

Father Grey says £50,000 owed to Blackburn Diocese will be repaid through income generated by the renting of the hall.

Other cash to complete the building will come from ongoing fundraising and grants.

Father Grey said: “In 2010 we had a gap approaching £500,000. Today it is over £400,000 less. Working together we have worked wonders.”

Since the start of the project the church has emphasised it wanted the Garstang community to use its facilities as well as church organisations.

The project became involved in controversy last year when Wyre Council unexpectedly offered up to around £150,000 towards the project, in the hope that the building might become a new “community hub.”

That offer, while welcomed by church officials, was viewed with suspicion by some parts of the community, angry at the sell-off High Street community centre.

Father Grey said he would still welcome the council’s offer of cash towards the hall, though stressed the project was not dependent on it.