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Scheme to put church on show

AN ambitious plan has been un- veiled to make Maidstone’s United Reformed Church more visible and accessible to the pub- lic.

The proposal includes demolish-

ing the shop that has hidden much of its 19th century façade and re- placing it with a glass foyer, hous- ing a community café. Church secretary John Williams

says the modifications will make the church – built in 1865 – fully visible from Week Street for the first time in years and more user friendly. He added: “As well as being a

place of Christian worship, our church buildings accommodate a variety of community activities, but we are conscious we could be doing more for local folk. “The changes would expose the attractive front of the building, which has been almost invisible since the department store [former Army and Navy] and shop were built, and will allow us to open more of our rooms and halls for

community uses.” The glass foyer, which would

house a new lift, making all three levels of the building accessible to the disabled for the first time, is ex- pected to cost about £730,000. The church will be looking for

grants and funding partners, and will launch a fundraising appeal to cover the costs of the phased proj- ect.

Phase two will include improve-

ments inside the church and phase three will be the redevelopment of the church’s Dunning Hall, with so- cial housing and, possibly, accom- modation for the homeless above. Mr Williams said: “We have

begun talks with ward councillors, the conservation officer and bor- ough planners, butwe will need to see how our fundraising goes. But it would be good to have plans in by the end of this year. “It is a lovely place to worship

and, hopefully, this project – the biggest since the church opened – could be viewed as a re-awakening for the building.”

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Progress on pavilion

AFTER eight years, Barming Parish Council believes it is finally ready to start vital refurbishment work on its village pavilion. Parish council chairman Fay Gooch said: “We’re getting quite excited as we’re applying for the last piece of the financial jigsaw.” The council says the overspill

venue on the parish field in Church Lane, which complements well-used community facilities at the village hall and parish hall, needs improvements costing £75,000. She said: “We are proud of Barming’s vibrant and active com- munity and our pavilion is already well used, but in need of upgrad- ing.We know the village supports our proposals and is now keen for us to get on with the work.” The parish council has now got financial backing from the county and borough councils and will use £30,000 from its reserves to do the work. It is confident that, along with donations, the £15K shortfall

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The pavilion, and top, an artist impression of the refurbishment

can now be met. Mrs Gooch said: “Unfortunately,

we can’t just go for the money,we have to apply to the public works loan board. But we have demonstrated we can sustain a loan and are confident this will now be forthcoming.” The parish council will know

the outcome of its loan application by the end of April. The plan includes fixing the pavilion’s roof, replacing windows and doors, adding insulation and cladding the building with a plas- tic wood-effect coating. The parish council hopes to be in a position to engage a builder by May. The work should take six weeks.



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