People Power Brings New Life to Unused Church
A battle by villagers in South Somerset to rescue and regenerate a closed Methodist church has been successful. Councillors in Stoke sub Hamdon have been campaigning to purchase the building to become a much-needed youth centre. They have also received a £3000 Project Viability Grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund towards solicitors’ fees and building surveyors.
This is the first successful Community Right to Bid sale in South Somerset since the legislation was introduced in 2012, and is a tremendous achievement for the village.
The Council are purchasing the Church for £130,000, which is lower than the value given in the surveyor's report. The Methodist Church are only able to sell at under market value in very exceptional circumstances under charity law, and Trustees ensured that a rigorous audit and evaluation process was followed before making their decision. The Methodist Church is keen to support community use and youth work in particular. The Council have been grateful for the support and continued encouragement from South Somerset District Council’s Area North team, and Somerset County Council’s Youth Service throughout the process.
The building will become the new Hamdon Youth and Family Centre, and will provide a much needed facility for the younger members of the village to meet. Many of the existing groups and clubs are without a permanent home and a place to store their equipment. The Centre will be managed by a user-led charitable trust under a management agreement with the Parish Council. The Centre will complement the adult use of the village Memorial Hall and significantly improve community facilities in the village.
Barbara Brooks, the Chair of the Parish Council said “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our village. It has been great having councillors and residents working alongside each other in our Working Party to make a positive difference for generations to come. Work will now begin on the legal processes of title transfer.”
Ian Morrison, Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund said, “This is great news. We are delighted to support the villlagers in Stoke sub Hamdon. Thanks to support from Historic England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and through a team of regional support officers, our grants and loans can empower and enable people to regenerate empty spaces like this to become important assets to communities again.”