We have been looking into our options for more than a decade
As far back as the year 2000, we did a feasibility study into extending and converting our existing church building. This proved to be both expensive and unsatisfactory, and so we started to look at the possibility of moving to a different site and building a new church centre.
In 2002 we bought the bungalow next door, principally in order to enlarge our footprint and increase the options open to us. The site that we spent most time looking at was the plot of land at the rear of St Bs next to the station. In 2009 we finally heard that this was not available to us.
Since then we have been on an incredible adventure of doors opening and impossible obstacles being overcome.
Highlights from the last few years
Some years ago the Bishop gave us permission to look for a site beyond our own parish. As far as we know this is unprecedented in the Church of England.
Following a series of prophetic pictures on the theme of light which emerged from a week of collective prayer and fasting, we started looking at a large office block on the High Road called Solar House - a property that was not on the market.
As part of an architects' selection process, we commissioned a feasibility study on a building we neither owned, nor was on the market. We fully expected plans for the conversion of an office block into a church to result in something unsatisfactory. However, unexpectedly, one of the architects came up with a brilliant scheme that inspired us to push ahead.
Solar House lies outside of our current parish, but astonishingly, the proposal to move the parish boundary to fold the site into our patch was agreed without objection.
Equally amazingly, the diocese agreed to front-fund the project.
Then, after a year of preparations, and just five days before we finally got ourselves into a position to make an offer, the property suddenly came onto the market.
Our initial offer was rejected, so we made a higher bid. This too was rejected and a sale agreed with another party. However, the other party withdrew and the property was offered back to us. After working hard to negotiate with the diocese and the vendor on the fine details of the deal, we completed the purchase of Solar House in March 2015.
With Solar House secured, attention turned to the sale of our current Holden Road site. During summer 2015 a deal was agreed and the process of seeking planning permission for both sites begun.
Through a long and tortuous process, amidst numerous setbacks we finally arrived at the planning meeting on 29 March 2017 at which planning permission was granted for both Solar House and the Holden Road site. We now find ourselves in a period of waiting as the full planning process runs its course.