£2 million vision to reopen church as community facility

Members of Trustees of Benington Community Heritage Trust, from left, Judy Crowe, Pam Bell, Irene Presgrave and Kevin Pinner at Benington Church. DD

Members of Trustees of Benington Community Heritage Trust, from left, Judy Crowe, Pam Bell, Irene Presgrave and Kevin Pinner at Benington Church. DD

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A village community which has plans to take on its former church and use it to bring services back to the area is bidding for a £2 million investment.

The Church of All Saints, in Benington, has been closed to the public since 2003, and now a group of residents, with the help of the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire and The Churches Conservation Trust are hoping to bring it back into use.

The Benington Community Heritage Trust recently submitted a planning application to Boston Borough Council to allow the Grade 1 listed building to be converted to a community facility.

If successful they hope to put in a bid in March to the Heritage Lottery Fund for three years funding totalling £2 million to go towards the costs.

Natalie Lunt, a development officer for the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire, said: “A group of local residents to Benington, set themselves up as a trust with a view to create a future for the church building, which has been closed since 2003.

“For the past year and a half they we have been working on plans and consulting local residents.”

She added: “This church is central to the people of Benington and the idea is to bring back services to the community within this building.

“The community has lost a lot of shops and services in recent years.”

As part of the scheme there will be a number of repairs to the external of the church, including the roof .

Isabel Assaly, regeneration manager at the Churches Conservation Trust, said most of the changes will take place internally.

She said: “We’re hoping to be making a very high quality community space.”

There will be a kitchen installed and some of the pews in the nave will be removed to make space for ‘flexible seating’.

It is hoped the space will be able to be used for events and live performances including concerts, while the tower will be converted into an ‘enclosed space’ for private meetings.

New heating, lighting and wi-fi systems are also hoped to be installed.

Mrs Assaly added: “It’s quite a sensitive adaptation that we’re looking at using.”

A member of the trust behind the changes to the church, has said it would be ‘criminal if it was allowed to waste away’.

Trust secretary Judy Crowe said “It clearly is a an absolutely fantastic building. It’s history is written all over the stonework.”

She said the group was officially formed in 2007, although a Friends of the Church group had existed in 2004, after parish members had seen the village decline since the 1970s.

Since its conception the group has expanded to include about seven trustees and more than 30 volunteers – including some from outside the area.

Judy added: “We hope to open a first-class community centre, with a community cafe and a heritage centre where people can learn about the surrounding area.”