As part of Woking Borough Council's ongoing regeneration of Sheerwater, St Michael's church is set to be transformed into a brand new, multi-use community hub.
The £1.85m investment, approved by the council's Executive Committee on Thursday night (16 June), will fund the refurbishment and extension of the existing church building on Dartmouth Avenue, and provide a new home for the Maybury and Sheerwater Community Trust (MASCOT).
The plans being discussed between St Michael's and the council's development company, Thameswey, include the provision of a hall for hire, a one-to-one meeting space, a training room, and a café area. The new facilities will be accessible and made available to the public through a community-use agreement between the council and the freeholder, St Michael's, who will manage the hub.
Exterior improvements include the development of a community garden, designed and match-funded by RHS Wisley, creating a high quality retreat for the purposes of wellbeing, and adding to the biodiversity of the area.
Speaking about the plans, Rev. Gillaine Holland from St Michael's said: "We've been working with the council for some time to understand the needs of the community and explore ways St Michael's can help to address them in partnership with the many wonderful voluntary organisations here. We're excited to have agreed a way forward and to be playing a pivotal role in the development of a new community hub for Sheerwater.
"Not only will the new facilities enhance the delivery of our after-school pop-up café, elderly lunches, tots praise, community fun days and other initiatives that promote inclusion, they will also enable us, and others, to offer more targeted support. We're particularly excited to be bringing our community charity, MASCOT, under our roof and continuing our work as part of Sheerwater Together."
The council's wider regeneration plans for Sheerwater include the provision of 1,142 high-quality sustainable homes, shared leisure facilities with Bishop David Brown School, a new health centre and community facility bringing together multiple primary and secondary care providers, a pharmacy, a central park with a skate park and multi-use games area, retail and restaurant units.
The partnership with St Michael's will ensure Sheerwater residents still have access to high quality community facilities after Parkview Centre for the Community is demolished in 2024 as part of the council's redevelopment works.
Woking Borough Council's Deputy Leader, Cllr Will Forster, said: "A common concern about new developments is that they rarely provide enough improvements in infrastructure to go with the new homes.
"This council has made a commitment to deliver the planned community facilities and infrastructure investment in the early phases of the project, and the £1.85m cost of expanding and refurbishing St Michael's Church will come from the already approved Sheerwater Regeneration budget. So, despite the financial challenges we face, this investment is affordable and key to the community in Sheerwater.
"To build a healthy, engaged and prospering community, the council is taking an asset-based community development approach to its partnership work in Sheerwater. We're supporting and working alongside all those who have a role in the future wellbeing of Sheerwater.
"St Michael's is a key partner in meeting the spiritual and wellbeing needs of the Sheerwater community, and I'm delighted that it will benefit from the creation of a new hub, which will support vulnerable residents for years to come."
To find out more about the transformation of Sheerwater, go to www.woking.gov.uk/sheerwater