Refurbishment Project

ST JOHN’S METHODIST CHURCH

WHITCHURCH SY13 1QT

Disabled Access – Statement of Need

  1. Currently our church is inaccessible to a good number of people. Not only are we openly breaking the law by not providing Disabled Access, but we are also preventing many people coming into our building.
  1. The church was built in 1879 and stands on top of a bank. Access to the main doors is by climbing a steep gradient and then up three steep steps. These three steps are beyond most of our elderly members of our congregation. The only way disabled people can come into our church is embarrassing – through an exterior door straight into the toilets, down one temporary ramp, up another and then up the full length of the church.
  1. Our aim is for St John’s to become a community building, accessible and available to all. We cannot provide people in wheelchairs and disability scooters access to our building – they simply cannot get in to the building!
  1. We are aware of six members of our congregation who would love to join us in worship, but they cannot attend church anymore. They are unable to negotiate the steps.
  1. We have three members who have very young children in pushchairs. We have the ridiculous situation where these pushchairs, complete with babies and young children, have to be bodily lifted up the steps. This is most unacceptable and very dangerous.
  1. St John’s has a reputation amongst the undertakers in the town as the most difficult building for access with the hearse and coffins. Our new scheme would allow a much easier and safer way of accessing the church at funerals.
  1. Phase 1 of our refurbishment also includes easier access through the exterior doors. We are planning to provide a new door from the church into our rooms at the rear. This will be much safer as it will mean people no longer have to go all the way out of the church and round the back to the other rooms. It will also mean that the Vestry will become a private space, as it should be, rather than a corridor.
  1. These changes will not only assist those who already use this building but would allow people who are not part of our worshipping community, to enjoy the heritage of the building. It is not acceptable to just use the building for 2 – 3 hours a week.
  1. We want to attract the community into the building by making it accessible for all. We want to leave a legacy to the people of Whitchurch and the surrounding area.
  1. Members of our church have wanted a level access for over 20 years. This access is urgently required NOW and cannot be left any longer, or the church will become a redundant building with no heritage to enjoy.

Below, please see a submission made by one of our young Mums who struggle to get inside our church each week.

I have one year old twins and a double buggy that I struggle to get into church. There are 3 entrances, all presenting different problems;

Main entrance – if both doors are open the entrance is wide enough, however, there are 3 steep steps and the twins and their buggy are now too heavy to lift up the steps, even with help. I have now stopped using this entrance.

Back door – the doorway is not wide enough for the double buggy. To use this entrance I need to shrink the buggy and therefore have to leave the twins either in the car, or on the floor inside the building depending on whether I’m arriving or leaving. This is not ideal.

Disabled access (through the toilets) – whilst the outside door is wide enough for the buggy, the door from the toilets into the guild room is too narrow. It is not practical for me to use this entrance.

I’m fortunate that I have lots of help from family to get in and out of church, however, there have been occasions when I have felt the effort to get into the building too great and therefore off-putting on a Sunday morning.

The church holds a mid week Toddler Group and other parents also struggle with access and double buggies. 

Hope this helps,

Below please see a submission from someone who recently attended a concert at our church.

4th December 2016

To whom it may concern.

On the 3rd December 2016, I attended a concert at St. John’s Methodist Church, Whitchurch, Shropshire. The concert was organised on behalf of the Town Band.

Being part of the audience, I was asked to assist lifting a person in a wheelchair into the church so they could attend the concert. The four people approached for this task were all in their late sixties. This is because the church has no disabled access.

The person in the wheelchair was able to vacate the wheelchair and occupy the last of the comfortable chair seats. However, the person accompanying the wheelchair user was unable to sit with the person, as we have very limited chairs.

In the interval, the disabled person had to remain in the church, while the rest of the audience went into the schoolroom for refreshments. It was fortunate that it was a cold winter evening and not a wet one, as the audience made their way round the outside of the church to the backrooms. A doorway directly from the church to the ancillary  rooms would be of great benefit.

At the end of the concert, assistance was yet again required to enable the disabled person to leave the building. Twenty years on from the Disabled Access Act, this is unacceptable.