The Rector and various members of the PCC met with members of the Parish Council, the Steeple Aston Village Archive, the Four who organised an independent public meeting re the building project, the Village Hall Committee, the Steeple Aston Choral Society and the staff and governors of Dr Radcliffe’s School in the summer and autumn of 2018.
Notes were made at each meeting. The following are headlines from all of these meetings, starting with the projects Six Principles, and demonstrating the variety of concerns and interests that came from these consultations.
One group expressed general support following a church visit, with the comment that it was especially important to get access sorted
Two groups stressed how vital resolving access was to the project and asked the PCC to maintain this priority
Where the floor levels will be altered and the floor graded to create ramped access, it was asked that wall details be checked again to ensure these would not be left in an unsightly manner
Again on floor levels, a question was put about the south porch: should it be graded down immediately inside the proposed new door, or should there be a flat area followed by a ramp?
Has the potential damage to the historic fabric of the building that underfloor heating might create been fully looked into?
Please check potential running costs of new heating, especially any underfloor or underfloor/radiator combination
The PCC were asked by two groups especially to make the church more usable for everyone through the winter - especially the young and the elderly
One group asked a general question about PCC principles - does there need to be ‘flexible space’?
One group welcomed the of proposed removal of the current choir stalls, and expressed concern that the plans don’t provide enough general flexibility of space in the building by retaining so many pews in the nave
Two groups especially welcomed the opportunity to use the main body of the church in different configurations, one asking if the seating could be turned to face north, one asking if it could be used ‘in the round’
Two groups expressed strong support for the plan to make remaining pews moveable, encouraged by the advantage this would allow children and adults to gain full visibility at all events
One group spoke out strongly about the children’s provision generally, which was viewed as essential to providing a church for the future
The school asked if the project might be used as an educational opportunity for their children
It was asked that as well as thinking of the older folk in the village the church must work to provide a building that enables a church for the people of the future
One group asked for detail on proposals to the Lady Chapel, welcoming increased space for all sorts of gatherings in that area and better access as a result of removing pews from the north aisle
There was a concern expressed that the church should not aim to contest Village Hall bookings
The desire for the Village Hall and Church to work together was expressed by three meetings
One group was very grateful to receive clear indications that the plans include a basic food/drink preparation area in the vestry, not a full kitchen, and welcomed this
Good public consultation was generally seen as essential; two groups asked for more consultation
Along with consultation, one group asked for more compromise and compassion
The PCC were asked to ensure a discussion element to a proposed exhibition weekend
Accepting that there was much information on the project available in the SAL and online, please could there be an increase in publicity for the Church’s information, both on the project and on process generally
Specifically: more publicity apart from the SAL ‘Church Matters’ page
HERITAGE: THE SCREEN, THE PEWS, THE FONT
There were several general questions about heritage issues: reports by Artemis Heritage and visits from Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings, Victorian Society, Church Buildings Council, Historic England & others were regularly discussed. It was asked that heritage be respected and understood
Three groups expressed a strong preference that the screen not be moved, with some understanding the liturgical reasons the PCC raised for wanting to do so, and some acknowledging that the independent heritage report allowed for its removal within the church building
One group, understanding the liturgical reasons for moving the screen, asked - could a move to the lady chapel/nave arch be investigated instead of the lady chapel/chancel arch, so it might remain in congregational full view?
One group asked - would moving the screen to the lady chapel/chancel arch limit sight-lines for choirs to the organ?
One group pointed out that moving the screen would enable the eighteenth century chandelier to be seen clearly
Two groups strongly supported the proposed re-siting of the screen for community purposes in addition to other reasons put forward by the PCC
One group, supporting the current proposals regarding the pews, requested that the peace and serenity of the church building be safeguarded after the changes
Some understood the heritage report on the pews as allowing for the proposed alteration; one group very strongly opposed any alteration and asked that this be looked at again
The nature of the proposed stacking chairs was addressed: can as many as advertised really be put in a single stack? How could they be stored safely? Is there enough storage space for the chairs in the current plans?
Questions were asked about reasons for the moving of the font by two groups. One supported the change, one opposed it.
One group asked - whom does the church building belong: the church congregation alone, or the wider village?
Questions of length of build-stage, and alternative provision for church during this time (for Sundays, for other users, for events such as funerals or weddings) were raised by several groups, and how this might provide good links with both the Village Hall and the School
It was asked if the church is intending to improve its audio/sound system?
In January 2019 one of the groups which participated in the consultations met again with members of the PCC to discuss further issues they had; these questions referred to issues of process and ethos of the project, together with financial questions and heritage issues. Notes from this meeting have been added to those from the others.
The purpose of this document is simply to collate all the issues raised in the summer consultations.
Some questions have simple answers (eg - yes, the church is intending to improve its audio/sound system) but some are much more complex. All will be looked at by the PCC, the architect and the DAC as the next design stage begins.
The PCC are committed to a public exhibition weekend for the project with opportunity for questions and discussion at the end of this next stage, before full faculty approval is sought. It is very much intended that ongoing information will be available through the Steeple Aston Life and the Church website in the meantime.