FULLARTON Parish Church is in line for a £3 million redevelopment which will turn it into a top-class community facility for the West End of Irvine.
Following lengthy discussions with North Ayrshire Council Historic Scotland, and Architect and Design Scotland, church bosses have come up with a revised plan which got the green light when NAC’s Planning Committee met on Tuesday.
Previous versions were knocked back because they involved the demolition of the church and the old school – both of which are listed buildings.
But the latest plan sees them blended into a layout which cleverly links the old and the new in a manner which retains the character of the church and its surroundings while providing a far greater range of facilities to the people of the area.
“We feel we are more than just a church and, over the years we have simply outgrown the facilities,” said Rev Neil Urquhart.
“It’s taken two or three attempts but, after discussions with all the authorities involved, we think we have come up with a solution which meets everyone’s requirements.”
The new plan will see an extension built at the rear of the church which will incorporate a large sports hall, changing rooms, toilets, stores, a prayer room, meeting room, youth cafe and open plan foyer and other facilities.
A second foyer, welcome area, soft play room, cafe and kitchen, would be created between the church and the former schoolhouse which would contain two halls with storage apace and would be accessed via a link extension to the main building.
The church itself, which dates back to 1838, will be cleared internally and refurbished to contain an open plan space and raided platform with seating for 253 people which would open directly into the central foyer and cafe via the link extension.
There would also be stairs leading to a first floor balcony.
Improvements to the layout and space around Church Street would improve the entrance to the site, additional car parking would be provided and, claimed planning officers: “there would economic and wider community benefits which justify the impacts on the special interest of the listed building and its setting.”
“We are trying to create a proper hub for the community,” added Neil.
“There is so much going on here and the buildings are just too small now.
“We’re just trying to expand and become a centre where people can come along for all sorts of reasons – not just a service on a Sunday morning.”
Neil added that the church already had £½m in place for the project and, as well as applying for grants, would appeal to the congregation, prospective user groups and the wider community in an attempt to raise the rest of the cash.
“We have drawn up a proper business plan and it has been well received, so hopefully we’ll be able to reach our target,” he said.