25th September 2016
The opening and blessing…
Photos thanks to the Archdiocese of Southwark.
24th September 2016
And ready for the official opening…
16th September 2016
30th July 2016
23rd July 2016
9th July 2016
4th June 2016
7th May 2016
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23rd April 2016
It’s going up…
8th April 2016
And the foundation stone is blessed and in.
2nd April 2016
PARISH ROOM PROJECT– BULLETIN 6
3 April 2016
As this bulletin is being written the works have started! Due to your prayers, support and generosity the Steering Committee had the necessary funds that enabled them to take the decision that the building should go ahead. Since, a contract was negotiated and signed with Spencer Francis Limited, a local Westerham builder. Also, the committee dealt with conditions included in the planning approval given by Sevenoaks District Council and received conditional Building Control consent. As a consequence, the building work has now started! The contract period is 24 weeks and so the parish room should be finished by 13th September. The design is complete, but the Steering Committee will be reviewing some of the internal details, fixtures and fittings.
At the 10:30am Mass this weekend, we will be blessing the foundation stone. This will be embedded into the concrete foundation of our Parish Room.
At the back of church there will be a time capsule. We aim to fill this with illustrations of the parish room, some religious artefacts, letters and/or drawings and/or objects created by our young members and some coins representing the generous donations given by our parishioners. The time capsule will be buried under the floor slab (date for this will be announced nearer the time). If you are interested in contributing to contents of this time capsule please pick up a leaflet from the back of church and return by Sunday 17th April.
As far as funding is concerned, the forecast total cost remains at £220,000. This includes the building costs, all fees, a contingency on the building costs and some allowance for fixtures and fittings. It is hoped that most of the contingency will not be used and some of it will be available to augment the amount currently included for fixtures and fittings as we would like to ensure that the parish room is well furnished and has good display equipment. We have the funds to cover the forecast costs that come from a combination of fundraising, donations, an interest free loan, a grant and parish reserves. The grant is a recent unexpected bonus of £10,000, which Cory Environmental Trust is contributing as a result of an application we made for their support. The one issue that we do need to address is the repayment of the interest free loan, which has been arranged through the Diocese. It is for £90,000 and has to be repaid over 10 years. The repayment required, therefore, is £9,000 per annum which cannot be financed out of the current parish operating budget and so we will be launching a campaign to raise the money through a combination of fundraising activities and donations.
We hope that the building works will not cause too much disruption. We are confident that we have a builder who is sympathetic to the needs of the parish and its activities. Now enjoy seeing our Parish Room emerge and we hope that you will be pleased with the final product. The Parish Room will be a tremendous asset for our thriving parish. Thank you all very much for your tremendous support, we wouldn’t be here without it!
We thank St Joseph for enabling us to arrive at this stage.
20th November 2015
Thanks to the prayers, support and wonderful generosity of the parish, the Parish Room Steering Committee agreed last Wednesday to proceed with letting a contract so that work can start on the building in the spring. The building work should take about 6 months and so we should have the parish room ready for use in the summer of 2016 all being well.
In the last bulletin in October, we re-stated that the forecast cost for the project was £222,000 and this remains unchanged following recent confirmation of tender prices from two shortlisted builders. We also explained that that to supplement an interest free loan from the Diocese for £90,000, and £30,000 currently available from existing parish funds and fundraising activities to date, we were seeking £100,000 in donations from parishioners including gift aid tax relief to fill the gap. Father Ivan then wrote to parishioners asking for donations and for responses by 15th November. The outcome has been incredible with nearly £80,000 being secured due to the wonderful generosity of the parish. It is an amazing achievement in such a short time which demonstrates the parish’s great enthusiasm for the parish room. We have been so encouraged and are so grateful.
The gap now between the forecast cost and the available funds for the project has been reduced to approximately £15,000 as a result of some additional funding being available from the parish’s other fundraising activities. The Steering Committee has decided that this figure is sufficiently small for us to be able to proceed with confidence to awarding a contract, particularly as a reasonable contingency is included in the forecast costs. We would, however, like to fill the gap in due course through a combination of further donations and fundraising activities. Consequently, if you have not already donated or you would like to increase your donation, then your contribution now would be most welcome. Next year, we will be launching a fundraising campaign for the annual repayments of the Diocesan loan, but for the moment we are very happy with the financial position.
During the last month, we have been in discussion with two shortlisted builders to obtain their best prices and after considering the merits of each builder and their price at the recent Steering Committee meeting, we are now entering into discussions with one of them with the view to awarding a contract in December. Before doing so the Steering Committee will be meeting our architect, Martin Bush, to do a final review of the building design including its fixtures and fittings to ensure that everything is satisfactory.
Over the past year, we have had a bumpy ride to get to the current position. The builders’ prices came in well above the original estimates and the planning permission took 8 months to be granted when it should have taken 8 weeks. What has been fantastic has been the support from the parish which has been steadfast and patient throughout. There is no doubt that the planning permission would not have been granted without the tremendous number of letters of support sent to both Sevenoaks District Council and Westerham Town Council at two critical times during the process. This support has then been followed by overwhelming generosity in donations received in the last few weeks. Thank you very much. As a result we can now look forward to seeing the building become a reality and to having years of benefit from having a wonderful facility where we can meet and congregate. Our prayers have been answered.
12th October 2015
PLEASE DONATE TO OUR PARISH ROOM NOW
As you will be aware, we have recently been granted planning permission to build the parish room. I am therefore writing to you now to invite you to make a donation towards the building costs and to ask you to be as generous as you can so that we can raise the necessary funds to proceed in the New Year.
Our parish is thriving with significant increases in the numbers attending Masses and with an expanding number of children attending Sunday School. Currently, the parish has no suitable venue for meetings, educational activities and social gatherings as the presbytery is too small and the church is our place of worship. In being granted planning permission it has been recognised by the authorities that very exceptional circumstances exist and this recognition arises from the fantastic support, which has been given by parishioners.
The parish room has been designed by a local architect to a good specification and it will provide an excellent facility to match the needs of the parish so that it can continue to thrive. Tenders have been received from local builders which enable us to have some certainty around our forecast costs for the project including design and a contingency for additional costs which will inevitably arise on a project of this type. The overall forecast cost is £220,000.
In order to fund the project, we have secured an interest free loan from the Diocese for £90,000 which will have to be repaid in annual instalments over the next 10 years and we have approximately £30,000 available from existing funds and fundraising activities to date. Consequently, we are seeking £100,000 in donations from parishioners including tax relief which can be claimed on gift aided donations. We will in due course be undertaking other fundraising activities, but these will be focussed on the repayment of the loan.
Please give as generously as you can by completing the attached form and returning it to me at the presbytery, as soon as possible, and no later than 15th November, with a cheque (or cheques). As an alternative you can make a donation through the Parish’s website using the Just Giving link. Your gift can be donated as a single sum now and/or be spread over the next year if you prefer.
Please gift aid your donation if you are a tax payer. If you do gift aid your donation, then this means that if you are able to make a donation of say £800, then it would provide £1,000 to the fund. Also if you are a 40% higher rate tax payer, you would be able to claim £200 from HMRC and hence the £1,000 contribution to the parish room would only actually cost you £600.
I do hope that you will be able to help us with this exciting project for our parish and can give generously. If you have any questions about what is happening, please do not hesitate to contact me or our project manager, Richard French, who chairs our Parish Room Steering Committee. His email address is email@example.com and his telephone number is 01732 750494.
If you are able to help us in building our much needed Parish Room please do so by donating via the link above or by a cheque attached to the form here:Letter with form
4th October 2015
This is the fourth bulletin to be circulated to parishioners to inform you of progress being made with the Parish Room Project. It follows the joyous news that planning permission has been granted by Sevenoaks District Council to build the parish room. The period for consideration of our planning application, which was submitted in February, was protracted. There were several false dawns, but thanks to the tremendous support of parishioners, your prayers and our convincing “Very Special Circumstances” amendment to the application, both Westerham Town Council and Sevenoaks District Council finally gave their support.
Since receiving planning permission the Parish Room Steering Committee has met to plan the next steps. We have prices to build the parish room as we obtained tenders earlier in the year and so we will now progress the negotiation of a contract to build it. As we informed parishioners in a previous bulletin, the tenders were higher than expected and consequently, the overall forecast cost has been increased to £220,000. In order to fund the project, we have secured an interest free loan from the Diocese for £90,000, which will have to be repaid in annual instalments over the next 10 years, and we have approximately £30,000 available from existing funds and fundraising activities to date. Consequently, we are seeking £100,000 in donations from parishioners including gift aid tax relief. We will, in due course, be undertaking other fundraising activities, but these will be focussed on the repayment of the loan.
A letter will shortly be sent to parishioners to ask you to donate, and to donate generously. Responses are requested by 15th November 2015. If we receive the funds needed to award a contract, then we plan to start work in the New Year with completion in June. If we do not receive sufficient funds by then, we will review our funding strategy and seek to fill the gap, but this would probably mean a delay to the start of construction and possibly an inflationary increase in the costs. We are, nevertheless, optimistic that with your generosity the funds will be raised given the level of pledges already received and the number of people who have said they will donate.
The design is unchanged from the original illustrations in the first bulletin with no connection to the presbytery and, therefore corresponds to the design submitted with the planning application. The original illustrations are included with this bulletin. The Parish Room Steering Committee will, however, review the internal details to ensure that the facilities are appropriate for the parish needs.
Please continue to pray and to support the project so that we have this wonderful facility available to our thriving parish of St John the Baptist next year.
14th August 2015
This is the third bulletin to be circulated to parishioners to inform them of progress being made with the Parish Room Project. It had originally been hoped that by this time the Parish Room might have been under construction, but unfortunately consideration of the planning application submitted in early February has been protracted. There have been several false dawns, but we now have a clear timetable to reaching a conclusion and for this to be positive we need as much of your support as possible and your prayers, please.
In the second bulletin issued in May, we said that Sevenoaks District Council had suggested that, if we attached the Parish Room to the presbytery, the planning application would be more likely to be acceptable as an infill building in the green belt. Subsequently, they have indicated that the best chance of gaining planning permission is by submitting an amendment to the planning application based on “Very Special Circumstances”. Consequently, this is what we have done with the original design unchanged, and an “Amended Consultation” has now commenced. All those who previously wrote to Sevenoaks District in support of the application will have been advised by letter of this.
There are two key dates relating to the Amended Consultation. The first key date is 27th August when at 9.30 am, Westerham Town Council (WTC), will consider our amendment. You may recall that WTC objected to our original application and we understand that this has been the reason for delay to its determination. It is, therefore, very important that we do everything we can to get WTC’s support to our “Very Special Circumstances” amendment and you can help to do this in two ways. The first is for people, particularly those living in Westerham, to write to WTC before the meeting and the second is for as many as possible to attend the meeting at 9.30 am on Thursday 27th August in WTC’s offices., Russell House, Market Square, Westerham.
The second key date is 1st September which is Sevenoaks District Council (SDC)’s last date for receiving comments on the “Very Special Circumstances” amendment, and we would like everybody to write to SDC supporting the amendment please, even if you wrote in support of the original application.
The “Very Special Circumstances” amendment document is lodged on SDC’s website under the St John the Baptist Parish Room planning application. It focusses on the key reasons why the Parish Room is so important to our Catholic community and so, if you do write to either WTC or SDC in support, please could you emphasise the reasons why the Parish Room is so important to us and why alternative facilities are not suitable.
As a guide, the key “Very Special Circumstances” which you might consider using are as follows:The parish has a thriving community and weekend Mass attendance has increased from about 60 to 150 in the past 3 years with strong support from the local community and this growth needs to be nurtured by having adequate facilities if it is to be sustained.
- The parish has an increasing number of activities including educational activities, meetings and social gatherings for which the church building is not a suitable venue as it a place of worshipandisnotconfiguredfor educationalorotherpurposes as it is filled with very heavy pews.
The presbytery is a family home for the priest, his wife and two children. It only has space and facilities for accommodating a very few people in its modestly sized sitting/dining room. The numbers wishing to use it have exceeded its capacity.
The presbytery does not have adequate facilities and is not accessible for the elderly or disabled. It only has toilets in the upstairs bathrooms.
Most of the activities for which the Parish Room is needed are linked to church services and, therefore, need to be held in close proximity to the church.
A key example for the need for the Parish Room is children’s Sunday School which is held for about half an hour during Mass while parents are in the church. With the increasing numbers of children attending (now sometimes exceeding 20), the presbytery can no longer accommodate them and going to a different location would be impossible.
Currently, there is nowhere for social gatherings to be held after church services. For those attending Sunday Mass or special services such as Baptisms, First Communion and Funerals, being able to meet afterwards is important and this is currently not possible without a Parish Room.
Some of the meetings held in the presbytery are of a confidential nature,and in such a small dwelling with family members present, privacy is not possible.
The circumstances leading to the planning application are unique within Westerham; a “one-off” given that other two churches in Westerham already have the facilities being sought.
Your support in writing to Westerham Town Council before 27th August can be sent either by letter to Russell House, Barleys Meadow, Market Square, Westerham, Kent TN16 1RB or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by accessing the website at: http://www.westerhamtowncouncil.gov.uk/contact/ and using the form provided for on line comments. Whichever method you use it is important that you include your name, full address and refer to the St John the Baptist Church Planning Parish Room Planning Application (reference: SE/15/00367/FUL).
Your support in writing to Sevenoaks District Council before 1st September can be sent by letter to Planning Department, Sevenoaks District Council, Argyle Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1HG or by email to email@example.com or by accessing the website at: www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/online-applications and selecting Public Access for Planning quoting the planning application reference number and using the form provided for on line comments. Again, whichever method you use it is important that you include your name, full address and refer to the St John the Baptist Church Planning Parish Room Planning Application (reference: SE/15/00367/FUL).
Thank you for all your support, prayers and patience. We are determined to succeed. Please help us to do so by expressing your views to the authorities as to why the Parish Room is so important for our thriving community.
23rd May 2015
At the back of church there will be a second of bulletin to inform parishioners of progress being made with the Parish Room project. We had hoped to provide information sooner, but there have been, and continue to be, delays with the planning application which was due for resolution on the 8th April, but is still “pending consideration”.
The delay to the decision arises from green belt issues raised by Sevenoaks District Council which we hope will be resolved in the near future. The application might well have been refused, but for the tremendous support it received from parishioners with over 75 having written to SDC. We are extremely grateful for this support with so many good reasons being put forward for having a parish room for the future of our community. We had a strong indication that the application was going to be recommended for approval because of it, but there appears to have been a change of mind on a technicality relating to green belt planning rules for infilling between existing buildings. As a consequence, we were asked to consider connecting the parish room to the church. In discussion with SDC, it was acknowledged that this was not a practical option, but linking it to the presbytery would be, with some potential advantages. We are now proceeding on this basis and are awaiting a decision on whether a simple amendment to our planning application will be acceptable. A perspective illustrating the change is included in this bulletin. The change involves a small re-orientation of the building to align more closely with the presbytery and a single porch linking the parish room to the presbytery’s kitchen.
We have received tenders from three local builders based on the original design. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons relating to the site and current market prices, the tenders were higher than expected and there will be some additional costs arising from the change to the design. These will increase the budget despite having included a reasonable contingency originally. We plan to enter into contract negotiation with two of the builders when we have planning permission and will seek some price reductions. At that stage we will revise our forecasts having established a firm contract price.
As far as fundraising is concerned, we have deferred the main thrust of this until we have planning permission and have revised our forecasts. We will, however, continue to be holding fundraising events and in particular, look forward to a very successful Dinner and Auction on 30th May with 150 tickets sold and some very generous donations for auction. This we hope will give us a solid platform of funding on which to move forward. One very good bit of news is that we have secured an interest free loan from another parish in the Diocese for £90,000.
We are sorry for the delay, but please be assured that we are doing everything we can to move matters forward. It probably means that it is now unrealistic to have the parish room by Christmas and means more of a challenge to fundraising. We are nevertheless confident that with your support and prayers, we will succeed in building the parish room which will be so important to our parish community.
1st March 2015
Important Notice for Parishioners
St John the Baptist Church, Westerham – Proposed Parish Room
The closing date for submissions to Sevenoaks District Council relating to the planning application for the parish room is 4th March. To date, there have been 20 submissions in favour and 5 against. The Westerham Town Council decided to oppose the application at its committee meeting on 26th February despite a good case being put forward by members of the parish. We are still optimistic that Sevenoaks DC will grant permission under special circumstances, but they will only do this if there is strong support from the community. So please will you write in to give the best possible chance to the planning application. Of the 62 parishioners who responded to the questionnaire saying they would write to Sevenoaks DC in support, 44 have not yet done so. We consequently urge them to write before the deadline of 4th March. We are sure there are others who might like to do so to help this important cause for our parish and we would be grateful if they would also write in support. Please note that there is no reason why each family member cannot write separately in support.
You can make a submission either on line via the Council’s website sevenoaks.gov.uk/online-applications or by sending a letter to Sevenoaks District Council, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1HG or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org quoting the application reference number 15/00367/FUL.
We give some issues relating to our application which you might like to take into account in making a submission.
- Parish Community
We are developing a strong parish in Westerham for our Catholic Community which welcomes everybody. This is evidenced by the increasing numbers attending Masses at weekends from all age groups. Mass attendance has gone up from 90 to 150 in the last two years. We aim to make our parish community even stronger with the help of a parish room.
- The Need
Currently the parish has no suitable venue to hold meetings or social gatherings. The church is our place of worship and is not adequate or suitable for these purposes. In the past the priest’s house has been used, but it is too small and it is now a family home as our priest is married with children.
- The Proposed Usage
We propose to use the parish room for a variety of meetings and social gatherings, some of which we cannot hold at present and some of which have to be restricted. The usage will include meetings relating to the running of the parish, to religious education including Sunday school for our children, and to our community work such as the St Vincent de Paul Society. The usage will also include social gatherings for parishioners after Masses and celebrations for events with visitors such as Baptisms, First Holy Communions, Confirmations and Funerals. It is also intended to make the room available to other organisations in our community and hold functions for the young, elderly and disadvantaged.
We have adequate parking for the church and will not have more people using the parish room than will use the church. The church and the parish room will not be used at the same time in a way that would increase the number. As now, if the church car park is filled, the nearby public car park will be used.
- The Design
The parish room has been sensitively designed by a local architect, Martin Bush, to fit nicely and pleasingly between the church and the priest’s house. It is set back from the church and house. It is intended to accommodate up to 60 seated and 100 standing. The church can hold 120.
- The Green Belt
We have taken advice from a Planning Consultant relating to planning issues who has prepared our planning application. He has taken into account the National Planning Policy Framework and the Sevenoaks District Local Plan in the considering the Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the application.
15th February 2015
The Steering Committee felt that the Parish had given overwhelming support to the project and the proposed design. As a consequence, a Planning Application (reference: SE/15/00367/FUL) has been submitted to Sevenoaks District Council with the full support of the Diocese and is now on the Council’s website (www.sevenoaks.gov.uk). You can now have your say. This can be done either:
- online via the Council’s website or
- by sending a letter to Sevenoaks District Council, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1HG or
- by email to email@example.com quoting the above application reference number.
For more information see Bulletin 1 (hard copies can be picked up from the back of church).
11th January 2015
The purpose of this section of our website is to inform you of our plans to build a parish room here at St John the Baptist Church in Westerham and seek your support and prayer. Our intention is to submit a planning application in the next couple of weeks, then to fundraise so that the parish room can be built in the second half of 2015.
The parish currently has nowhere to hold meetings or functions except in the Priest’s house, which is not satisfactory and is not good for the vitality of the parish. As a consequence, we would like to build a Parish Room that would provide a centre for parish meetings, gatherings of parishioners, particularly after Masses, and educational activities including Sunday school.
The proposed location for the Parish Room is set back on the lawn between the church and the house, parallel to the wall next to the church. The size of the building is to be 12 by 6 metres with 3 unisex toilets (one disabled), a storeroom, a kitchenette and a cloak area. The open space room size would be about 8 by 6 metres, which would have capacity for approximately 100 standing or up to 60 seated.
An initial budget cost estimate for the building as presented including fees and a contingency is £175,000. It is intended that the parish room will be financed by a combination of existing funds, donations, parish fundraising activities and a loan. Many parishioners have already pledged to make generous donations, but we will need to seek more. There is a number of fundraising activities underway and we are discussing with the Diocese a loan facility. More details of the financial position will be provided in due course once we have established a firm price for the building.
The building is being designed by a local architect, Martin Bush. It is to be of timber construction with brick walls. Illustrations of the plan for the building and perspectives are shown on this page.
We aim to submit a planning application with the help of a planning consultant by the end of January. We will then ask our architect to prepare a detail design and specification so that we can obtain quotations from builders and have a firm indication of the cost. Once we have this, we will endeavour to raise the funds necessary so that we can commit to awarding a contract to a builder. If all goes well, then we would hope to have the parish room built in the second half of 2015 and be ready for Christmas.
If you have any questions, please could these either be addressed to:
To listen to the presentation made in church please go to our webcam recordings starting from the 40minutes mark.