Church plans a new ‘beacon’

Community hall project at St Aidan's Church in Stobhill.'Visuals by Ben White
Community hall project at St Aidan's Church in Stobhill.'Visuals by Ben White

AN ambitious community project has been launched by a Morpeth church.

Plans have been submitted by St Aidan’s Church in Stobhill to demolish the parish hall, sell off the land for housing and build a new community room onto the church.

A part-time community worker could be employed to help groups make the most of the new facility.

The sale of the existing hall site for the development of three houses could cover two thirds of the cost of the estimated £250,000 project, with the remaining cash coming from grants and fund-raising.

The Rev Simon White said: “At the moment the church is in a bit of a sorry state so we want to invest in the church and the area of Stobhill.

“The old hall is in a position now where it needs a lot of maintenance and it is costing more to run. We do get an income from it, but we are losing money hand over fist because of the repairs, and we are probably going to need a new roof, which could cost nearly £100,000.

“As the church is on the other side of the road, we are also paying for things like heating and lighting in two buildings.

“We think it would be better to re-develop the land of the existing hall and use the money to build a new facility across the road at St Aidan’s.”

The church has a strong community heritage and when it was built each brick was sponsored by a resident of the Stobhill estate. The parish hall was gifted by Leech Homes in 1969 and became the hub of the neighbourhood.

However, the construction of the A192 Shields Road in the 1970s separated the hall from the church and activities started to dwindle.

Now parishioners want to recapture the energy of the early days and provide a facility that will act as a beacon for the community, reflecting the common image of St Aidan holding a beacon to shine a light wherever he went.

And they think a new community room, including an accessible kitchen and toilets, is the way forward.

Mr White said: “It is about trying to encourage the people of the area to use the church.

“We also want to get a community worker to organise small groups. If some Stobhill parents want to meet, but don’t know how to do it, the worker could help them. We know that older people can feel quite isolated, but this facility would be within walking distance of their houses.”

He added: “We want to work with the Stobhill community to develop this project. People have been positive so far.”

The facility could cater for a creche, holiday clubs, meetings and community events and activities, and links could also be made with Barnabas Safe and Sound, which has recently taken on the management of Stobhill Youth Club.

Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee has raised no objection to the applications, but members have stated that only three houses should be built on the parish hall site, and they have urged highways officers to carefully consider the potential traffic impact of the community room development.