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Church rebuild will help the vulnerable
A CHURCH could be bulldozed and redeveloped alongside a block of flats.
St Stephen’s Church, in Alton Gardens, Southend, is working with Southend Council and a housing association, on a scheme that would see a new church with apartments for vulnerable people being built.
Church leaders have reached an agreement with Sanctuary Housing which will use some of the site to build between 24 and 36 one-bedroom flats in exchange for creating the new church, community hall and children’s playground.
The current building has been used by the church since the 1940s when it was donated by the RAF. It was only meant to be temporary and is nowvery dilapidated.
The rev Colin Baldwin joined the church eight years ago when the congregation had dwindled to about ten elderly parishioners.
He said: “We have about 50 people on a Sunday, but with the new building andexpect this to grow. We try to make the services more relevant to people’s lifestyle and every three months do a popular breakfast service in the cafe.
“We want to create a community and identity for the church.
“A lot of people don’t even know we are here. We do a lot of work with Prince Avenue School and the children's’ centre and run lots of youth groups.
“We want to expand the work we do so youth groups are not just one nightaweek and we can open the community cafe more often, to combat loneliness.”
It is not just the congregation who use the church, as between 70 and 80 children use the hall during the week.
As part of the deal the council will need to sell the garages in Audleys Close, so a rectory and the playground can be built.
Through this scheme, the council will have full rights to house tenants in the flats which will have a live-in support worker.
Plans will now be debated at Thursday’s policy and resources scrutiny committee.
St Laurence ward councillor Mark Flewitt said: “We have been briefed about the plans as have some residents.
“There was some concern that the flats would be for mental health patients, but I have been reassured it will not be for anyone at risk of harm to themselves or others and will mainly be those with learning disabilities.
“The plans I have seen look like a landmark building with a smooth edge and cross embedded in them.”
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