Our world may have changed dramatically over the last few months, but the vision that lies behind the Redevelopment project remains as important as ever, and work on the project has continued apace despite the restrictions that we are all living and working under.
As most will know, the first phase of the project will replace the flint-faced 1970s structures around the church with a modern glazed atrium giving us an open face to the town and providing a large area for fellowship including a coffee bar and bookshop. The atrium will link through to Nos 2 & 4 Sackville Street, which will be converted to provide office space and new church toilets.
This Phase 1 work went out to tender in February and four contractors submitted tenders at the end of March. Interviews have been held – by video conference – with three of them (the fourth bid was priced substantially higher). We hope to have, with PCC approval, discussions at the end of June with the successful contractor how best to get work underway.
The current restrictions are not necessarily a bar to work starting. All the contractors we interviewed have put measures in place to allow sites to work safely within government guidelines, but we can’t yet be sure about timing. However, we do know from the tenders that the duration of the work is likely to be around 11 months. During that period the only parts of the church site that will be accessible will be the church itself, via the door leading directly out to Friar Street, and the Centre, along the path that runs across the face of the building. There will be more details about how this will all work nearer the time.
Meanwhile our Phase 2 proposals – covering the replacement of the existing Centre with a three-storey building on much the same footprint, linked to the main church atrium by a broad corridor – were approved on 4 March by the Reading Borough Council Planning Applications Committee. This is very welcome news and an answer to prayer after the objections that were raised to earlier versions of the proposals. The next stage will be to develop a fully detailed design for the building.
We have the funding in place for the Phase 1 works and pledges for about 50% of the expected cost of Phase 2. We will be reviewing the most appropriate timing to fundraise for the balance of the Phase 2 cost, and in the meantime the funding team continues to work on Trust applications and an application to the Church Commissioners.