A bold and welcoming vision

Published by Giles Goddard on Thu, 10 Nov 2016 15:37
Vicar's Blog

Moving St John's into the future

Lawyers and architectural experts will descend on St John’s Waterloo on December 12th for a crucial court hearing on the future of the building.

It’s all to do with our exciting plans to renovate this wonderful church, which has served the community since 1824

Over the past five years, we’ve been working with architects, the congregation and the local community to develop a project which will fit the church for the 21st century.

We’ve created a new organisation – the Bridge at Waterloo – to support local people into employment through work in the arts and heritage. Our first course, Digital Futures, was held in July 2016. It was a big success, giving 16 young people from Lambeth coding and digital skills, followed by work placements in local businesses.

For us to continue our work, we need to open up the crypt of St John’s – much of it is derelict – and renovate and improve the church. We want to make the building more welcoming, and reinstate the galleries which sadly were not replaced after the building was bombed in 1941.

To do this, of course, we need permission!

The Church of England has its own planning process, known as “Faculty Procedures”. The person who makes planning decisions is the Diocesan Chancellor. If there are complex issues to consider and much evidence to be taken into account, he can call a Consistory Court. Such courts were established by King William I, so they have a long history.

The Consistory Court at St John’s next month will consider the changes we are proposing to the nave of St John’s. This is necessary because the 20th Century Society have objected to our plans. They argue that the present interior, as part of the Festival of Britain architecture, should remain virtually unchanged. We believe the building is no longer fit for purpose, and needs to be improved so that it serves our worship and other uses better.

We are confident that our plans respect the existing interior and, by reinstating galleries and redesigning the lady chapel and vestry, we will improve the building significantly. But the 20th Century Society and Historic England don’t see it quite that way.

The fact that the Court is being held reflects the fact that St John’s is an important building in central London and means that the process of reaching whichever conclusion is reached is clear and transparent.

The court will be held in church from Monday 12th December and will run for four days between 9.30 and 5, with a break at 1.00 for lunch. Evidence will be given by experts on behalf of our opponents and ourselves. I will also give evidence.

Anyone is very welcome to attend. It will be a chance to see how decisions about buildings are made, and how this very special building will (hopefully!) be ushered into the 21st century.

Image credits: