Plans launched for fire replacement ‘meeting place’ at Newton Poppleford church

Proposed church hall at St Luke's

Proposed church hall at St Luke's - Credit: Archant

Eight years after a devastating fire destroyed a church hall plans for a replacement have finally been unveiled.

Dan Smith. church volunteer, with the space left by the church hall fire

Dan Smith. church volunteer, with the space left by the church hall fire - Credit: Archant

St Luke’s Church in Newton Poppleford has launched a £200,000 appeal to raise enough to build the new building that it’s calling ‘The Meeting Place’.

The Rev Mark Ward said: “It has been a long time getting to this stage.”

Settling with the insurer took nearly a year and a specialist demolition firm had to be employed because asbestos was involved.

An architect was then taken on for option studies. This was followed by lengthy discussions with planning authorities, Diocesan authorities and English Heritage. Then there were ground surveys and archaeological surveys.

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Churchwarden Haylor Lass said: “We had a couple of false starts when we could not agree the way forward. We are much more optimistic that we now have a good solution at the right price and a good consensus about viability.”

The Rev Ward this week relived the moment he learned about the fire.

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“I expressed great sadness at what had happened but we were also extremely grateful that the church building was not seriously damaged,” he said.

“It was almost miraculous. The old eaves nearly caught fire and if that had happened the whole church roof would have gone up. I don’t know if it was Divine intervention.”

The fire was the work of arsonists but no one was ever prosecuted.

The new hall will be built in stages. It will contain a meeting room, toilets and a kitchen.

Plans have been drawn up by Seaton firm NDM Architects. A planning application will be submitted shortly.

“It’s caused some problems being without the hall but we have the huge advantage that we have chairs instead of pews in the church building so it is very adaptable,” the Rev Ward said.

The biggest loss has been the toilets and the kitchen. It’s hoped the new ‘Meeting Place’ will provide facilities for a variety of church groups including mothers and toddlers, old folk and youth activities.

It is hoped to have the hall opened by the end of 2019. The section linking it with the church will take longer to complete as listed building consent will be required.

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