Fresh hopes for St Thomas’s hall

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CHURCH members are re-launching their campaign to complete the partially-built Garstang parish/community hall to be used by both St Thomas’s church and the public.

Parishioners at St Thomas’s recognise they face an uphill struggle to raise around £500,000 on top of the cash already spent on building the basic structure of the hall behind the vicarage, off Church Street.

The saga of the new hall’s construction and financing has dominated discussion among parishioners over the past two years, during much of which the project has been ‘on hold’ due to lack of funds amid worries over the state of the unfinished building, and amid claims of a lack of communication between the church’s leadership and members.

Non-churchgoers in Garstang have taken a keen interest as, when the new hall does eventually open, it, like the old St Thomas’s hall, will be used by many community organisations as well as parish-linked groups.

This week, Garstang vicar Father Stephen Grey revealed the latest plans for the old hall (the former St Thomas’s School) which is to be demolished, and his hopes for the new hall.

He also revealed his own personal fund-raising efforts.

Father Grey said: “We have now applied for planning permission to demolish the old parish hall and redevelop the site providing five dwellings.”

He said the old hall site, with the hoped-for planning permission, would be sold off, with the capital being put into the fund for finishing off the new hall.

Father Grey stressed the parish hall project was definitely a reality.

He said: “Despite setbacks, not of our own making, the hall is now up and watertight ready for the next phase of development.”

Over the past year, he said St Thomas’s parochial council had experienced frustration during the lengthy process of getting all interested parties involved – adding that, throughout the negotiations, confidentiality had had to be respected.

In January 2011, The Courier revealed that talks over the possible sale of the old hall to Lancaster pub chain Mitchells, which owns the neighbouring Th’owd Tithebarn pub, had broken down, even though work had by then started on the new hall.

The lack of a sale then created a major shortfall in church funds to pay for the new hall – prompting worries among churchgoers about where the cash for the new building was coming from.

In March 2011, church warden