Thursday, 25 August 2011

Christ Church, Swindon Development and Renewal Strategy

This paper sets out the strategy for progressing the revitalisation of Christ Church and its Church Centre.  The strategy was approved unanimously by the Parochial Church Council on 25th July 2011.

 Church Centre

We have agreed that the redevelopment of the Church Centre should be progressed using moneys from the “106 fund” available from Swindon Borough Council and the currently “restricted” fund that arose from the sale of the former Church Hall in Devizes Road.

The existing Church Centre would require extensive repairs in the near future if it were to continue to be used, butthat option has been discounted because it would extend the life of the building for only a limited period.

The total redevelopment of the Church Centre offers an exciting opportunity to provide a modern facility for both community and Church use.

A co-ordinated redevelopment of the site has many advantages:

  • Potential to use the restricted funds from the sale of the former Church Hall.
  • Eligibility to use the Borough Council’s available “106 fund” (£200,000).
  • Updated and improved facilities (better disabled access, toilets, kitchen etc).
  • ILower running costs through more efficient heating and insulation.
  • Accommodation of a purpose-built parish office on the Church site, allowing the sale of the existing office at 36 Cricklade Street.
  • More storage space and less clutter
  • Improved  facilities for greater and a wider range of community use.
  • It may be possible to attract additional community grant funding for this option.
Christ Church

While the Church Centre is being redeveloped, plans will to be consolidated for the revitalisation of the the Church building.

Previous efforts have focused on replacing the roof first. Although there would be some merit in this, it would cost approximately £450,000, but has so far attracted very little support from grant and other funding bodies. This is partly because of the value of the assets currently showing in the Church accounts. It would take a huge effort to raise that level of funding in the current financial climate, while offering no obvious or immediate benefit to the Church or the wider community.

We therefore recommend that works inside the Church, which would have a more tangible impact and benefit for the Church (and community), are progressed ahead of work on the roof that is not urgently required.


Our preferred option is for under-floor heating. This would be zoned and supplemented by wall-mounted radiators. The heat source would be provided by two coupled gas boilers located in the old boiler room under the vestry.

This would require the removal of the existing floor, and the laying of a new floor which would contain insulation and the heating matrix. It would also have the advantage of providing a level surface throughout the main body of the Church, which would allow free disabled access and greater flexibility in the use of the building.

The new Church Centre would be available to use for worship while this disruptive work iscarried out in the Church.      


One our key concerns in the renewal plan is to create a more flexible and more comfortable seating space in the Church. Work to replace the heating and level the floor would require the removal of the existing pews. Surveys have indicated a range of views amongst members of the congregation about the possibility of permanently removing the pews. We propose to replace the existing pews with lighter, more comfortable and portable stacking pews in the body of the Church. We would also remove the remaining aisle pews and replace them with the existing chairs. This would provide greater flexibility in the use of the Church and more comfortable seating, but would require careful consultation with the Diocesan Advisory Committee and other interested parties such as English Heritage and the Victorian Society..


Further investigation is required into the merits of possibly installing a glazed screen across the west end of the Church. This would provide an area  for meeting and greeting before entering the main body of the Church, and reduce heat loss and draughts from open doors.. The design of a screen would need to be compatible with any revised layout of the building to avoid compromising its flexible use.  IIn addition, there is a need to improve the draught-proofing on the main west and south porch doors. We are committed to ensuring that the renewed Church interior is cost effective and efficient to run, but this aspect requires further thought before recommendations are made.


Further research and costings are needed before recommendations can be made, but in keeping with our commitments to reduce energy costs and environmental impacts, and improve the interior of the building, we consider it to be an important part of the development process.

Audio/ visual

Because of changes to the frequencies at which radio-microphones may be operated, we will be legally required to make changes to the Church’s existing audio system in 2012 in order for it to continue to be used.  In making those changes, we are also considering additional options to upgrade the system and enhance our audio/visual facilities.

 Cleaning Internal Walls

The internal walls of the Church are dirty and stained, and would benefit from thorough, professional cleaning. This would lighten the interior of the building and provide a more inviting atmosphere. However, there would be little merit in carrying this out until roof repairs have been completed, as further water staining from leaks would occur before and during the roof works. It is recommended that this work is deferred until after the roof works have been completed.

Funding for interior Church works

Although further analysis is required to confirm the estimated  costs of the proposed works, it is felt that some of them could be undertaken using funds made available from pledges, fund-raising events and existing resources that could be released from within the Church accounts. The latter are:-

  • The remainder of any moneys from the sale of the former Church Hall that could be de-restricted.
  • Proceeds from the proposed sale of the existing Parish Office.
  • Proceeds from the proposed sale of the house owned by the Church in Upham Road
Removing those assets from the Church balance sheet would make it more likely that we would be able to apply successfully for grants towards the costs of other aspects of the development and renewal programme

Church Roof

The past 5 quinquennial reports have commented on the condition of the existing slates and lead gutters, and the latest recommends re-roofing within the next 5 years. Currently the Church is managing this by undertaking reactive repairs as necessary. Although this approach cannot be continued indefinitely, the roof is not currently showing signs of significant leaks or deterioration.

It is recommended that the current maintenance regime is continued with annual provision being made for patching and repair as necessary. While the interior works are underway, drawings, specifications and contracts will be progressed. These will add support to any grant applications that are to be submitted for the roof works. Consideration will also be given to installing photo-voltaic cells on the roof to help reduce future electricity costs. These could be demountable to allow future maintenance of the roof.

Summary of proposals

1.  Use the contribution available from the Borough Council’s “106 fund”, and some of the “restricted” money from the sale of the former Church Hall, to replace the existing Church Centre with a new and  larger modular building incorporating a hall, kitchen, toilets, meeting rooms and Parish Office.

A small group has been formed from members of the Development and Renewal Group and the wider community to work with our architect and Swindon Borough Council to plan and progress this project. The group will report back to the Development and Renewal Group and the PCC.

2.  Sell the existing Parish Office (and possibly the curate’s house in Upham Road) and use the proceeds, together with any residual funds that can be de-restricted from the sale of the Church Hall, grants and fund-raising income, to carry out the proposed work to the interior of the Church, commencing with the heating, seating and floor.

3.  Following the interior works, concentrate efforts on fund-raising and grant applications for repairs to the Church roof, external walls and rainwater goods. The work to the roof could be carried out in phases as funds permit.

This report marks the end of a long period of investigation, discussion and research. It outlines the approach that we plan to take to develop and renew the Christ Church site.

Plans are being developed for the design of the new church centre, and work has  started to evaluate the scope and costs of the above proposals, on which we would very much welcome your comments and suggestions.

If you would like to find out more or get involved in the project, please contact any member of the Development andRenewal Group or the Parish Office (01793 522832)  or read and contribute to the Renewal Blog at

Members of the Development and Renewal Group 

Pam Bridgeman
Lynda Fisher
Peter Ford
Stephen Grosvenor
Gareth Hutchinson
Norma McKemey
Bernard Oxborrow
Mike Palmer
Ailsa Palmer
Daniel Pitt
SImon Stevenette
Trudie Wigley