Bolney Church Steps Handrails Project 2018
1.The parochial church council (PCC) of St Mary Magdalene is responsible for maintaining the fabric of this Grade 1 listed building and for upkeep of the churchyard over which two public footpaths give access from The Street to the school and Glebe Field.
2.A long-running aspiration of the PCC is to provide handrails to the set of three stone steps on the lychgate path rising from The Street, opposite the pub. At present the steps are a potential hazard to the less able-bodied, particularly in wet or icy conditions. Safety is very much on the PCC’s mind. This path is heavily used by visitors to the church, schoolchildren and their parents/carers, dog-walkers, and so on. The installation of handrails to provide support for users is a desirable objective. Two major issues: consents from statutory authorities and fundraising.
3.As a preliminary step, the PCC commissioned the church’s inspecting architect to advise on design options and to prepare drawings and specification. These are held digitally and can be viewed on request. The preferred scheme is a wrought-iron centrally mounted rail on the lower flight of steps, a similar centrally mounted rail for the short flight up to the lychgate, and a rail on either side of the wider flight leading towards the church.
4.Two types of formal consent are required: planning permission and a diocesan faculty. Applications were submitted by the PCC in August to Mid Sussex District Council and the diocese of Chichester respectively. Planning permission is needed because the proposal is “development”. A faculty is needed because nothing can be done affecting the interior or exterior of a church or its environs without the ecclesiastical equivalent of listed building consent.
5.Planning permission for “Erection of Steel/Wrought Iron Handrails to Three Flights of External Stone Steps on Path from The Street via Lychgate to Improve Accessibility to all Users of the Church and Churchyard” was granted by Decision Notice from Mid Sussex DC dated 18 Sep 2018, ref DM/18/3236. This is subject to the usual conditions that the development shall be begun within three years and that no materials be used other than shown in the submitted drawings.
6.The required faculty is however proving to be more of a challenge. A body known as the diocesan advisory committee (DAC), made up of experts in their field, did not like the scheme as originally presented but has recently said it will not object to a faculty. The PCC is now obliged to petition for a faculty, a procedure which first requires publicising the project (notwithstanding that the planning application was itself publicised) and then submitting supporting information to Chichester Registry for decision by the Chancellor. This convoluted and time -consuming procedure could yet take a couple of months and the outcome not guaranteed.
7.The PCC must of course have the necessary consents in place before proceeding.
8.One quote is to hand thus far from Burrows Lea Forge Ltd of Shere, Surrey: £6,405 plus vat. Blacksmiths skilled in this type of work have to be approved by the diocese. A second quote is awaited from Michael Hart of Cranbrook, Kent. The work must comply strictly with the architect’s specification.
9.The PCC has to rely on fund-raising for a project of this kind. Various grants have been investigated. Bolney Parish Council has generously offered £1,000 from its limited resources. Mid Sussex District Council has approved a Community and Economic Development grant of £2,500 as a contribution, subject to certain conditions. West Sussex County Council operates a crowdfunding site known as West Sussex Crowd for its Community Initiative Fund. The PCC has successfully passed the verification stage; however, a commitment to match fund has been deferred by WSCC to its next meeting in March 2019. The intention is that the PCC secures pledges to the value of 50% of the cost and WSCC meets the balance.
10.The PCC is budgeting for £10,490. This surprisingly high figure comprises (1) architect’s fee (paid) £1,950, (2) contractor’s quote incl vat £7,686, (3) contingency say £500, (4) SpaceHive fee £350. Allowing for grants of £3,500, and assuming WSCC will come up with 50%, the PCC needs to secure pledges worth in aggregate £1,745.
11.Individuals and local businesses interested in supporting the PCC over this project are invited to make a pledge of any amount however modest. There is a link to the site via www.stmarymagdalenebolney.com or direct to Spacehive : search for “Helping Hand” project.
12.The PCC will gladly provide further information on the above and answer queries. It much appreciates any support for the project.
Susan Ayres and Tim Hutchings as churchwardens for Bolney PCC 03.11.2018