It is now over two years since we initially presented the plans to convert Solar House to our new church centre and many people pledged financial support. Someone said to me recently that they felt that the Go and Grow plans had now so changed that the current scheme was no longer the one they bought into (and pledged money to) back in the autumn of 2014. I was shocked by the realisation that somehow we must have poorly communicated the development of the project. Because whilst the plans have evolved over the past two years, few main aspects of the scheme have changed. The new main entrance is in the same place, the kitchen is the same size and in the same place, the ground floor toilets are in the same place, and the lifts are in the same place and same style. Crucially, the new auditorium (which we will build in phase two) is planned for roughly the same size and place. There is still to be a big new stairs between the ground and first floor (albeit for structural reasons we moved its location). The first floor is still planned to be the main kids work area, the second floor to include space for youth, and the third floor is still designated for offices.
But as with all plans, there have been some modifications along the way. The main ones include:
- We moved the chapel to the ground floor because we feel this is a better location for it
- The big new ground-to-first staircase was moved to a structurally better location, redesigned and made slightly larger
- The first floor has been more enclosed for sound insulation, usability and better fire protection
- We decided against a balcony in the main auditorium, wanting our main worship hall to be all on one level
- We removed the planned brise soleil enhancement to the outside of the building for reasons of cost, but then added in a visually larger main entrance to help brighten the look of the building
- Finally since the original presentations we’ve moved what has become known as “the orangery” on the front, only to take it off for cost reasons, and then to add it back on again (it is currently included in our planning application, but not in our building plans, so its status may change yet again!)
The big changes have not been to do with the building plans, but concerning the progress of the scheme. It has taken far longer, been much more difficult and been significantly more expensive than we originally envisaged. This has led to us having to restructure the financial arrangements of the project and to plan to deliver it in two phases. We also had to decide to sell off the North Wing, reasoning that it was superfluous to our needs and that God may not want us to be holding what would simply be a large property investment. Perhaps we were naive when we started this project, but maybe that is a good thing as I doubt we would have had the courage to embark on this incredible adventure had we known how hard it would be. We have learnt much along the way.
In the autumn of 2014 we were just setting off on the journey of realising our dream to create a fantastic church centre on the High Road. That dream is still intact. At that time the plans were a fairly rough early draft, with many details still to be examined. However, when I look back I am struck by how much of what we originally planned is still in place in the full detailed scheme that we are pursuing today.