The St Mary's Development Project
The St Mary’s Development Project aims to secure the future of St Mary’s as a living church, serving the spiritual needs of all who pass by its doors, while also encouraging greater community use of our beautiful building. There are two aspects to the project:
The new build and landscaping will revitalize a key corner plot in the East Cliff Conservation Area that, at the moment, looks derelict and invites vandalism. It will enable the church to offer flexible, affordable spaces for hire by community groups; provide toilets for the public under the ‘Use our loo’ scheme; and enhance the church’s attractiveness as a performance venue.
Support from Brighton and Hove City Council
The land is owned by Brighton and Hove City Council. The Council have agreed to lease it to St Mary’s at a peppercorn rent in return for our revitalizing it for maximum community benefit, including making the new toilets available to the public under the 'Use our loo' scheme. We are grateful to the Council for their support.
Ironically, the Development Project emerged from Diocesan recommendations in 2003 and 2006 that St Mary’s be made redundant. The threat of closure galvanized people into action, and since 2010 the congregation have worked with the Regeneration Team of the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) to devise a plan for sustainable growth. In June 2011, the CCT sponsored a well-attended Open Day at the church. Visitors' feedback revealed a need for affordable community spaces and a desire to use St Mary’s as an arts and performance venue without compromising the beauty of its interior or its life as a church.
Appointment of Project Architects
In April 2014, after two feasibility studies, St Mary’s appointed Nick Haseltine and John Bailey from the firm of Thomas Ford and Partners as Project Architects. Both Nick and John have an excellent record of building innovative yet respectful additions to listed places of worship. We are delighted that they wish to work with us on the project. John additionally works as our Inspecting Architect, which means that he advises us on how we must care for the existing building.
The Heritage At Risk Register and Heritage Lottery Fund
In October 2014 St Mary's was included on Historic England's Heritage At Risk Register as a building 'at immediate risk of further rapid deterioration'. This support from Historic England has helped us gain £234,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to repair the whole of the elevation facing Upper Rock Gardens. Additional and much welcomed support has come from the National Churches Trust (£40,000), the Garfield Weston Foundation (£10,000) and the Sussex Historic Churches Trust (£6,500). This first phase of repair works began in May 2016 and is due for completion at Christmas. We hope to follow this up with the repair of the front of the church in 2018.
We are now engaged in energetic fundraising to ensure the new build is completed by the end of 2018. If you would like to help us breathe new life into St Mary's and its neighbourhood – to make it a real hub of the community – then please consider joining or donating to the Friends of St Mary’s.
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