Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas at St.Johns Place

Monday, 17 November 2014

How to procure your building

With over 65% of money for Phase 1 gathered, and Planning Permission for Wiltshire Council and the Church of England, its time to consider how we get St.John's Place built.
So far we have been using Paul Stevens Architects to draw up plans and talk to conservation bodies, but there is still a long way to go. We need to do detail drawings which need to pass Building Regulations, drawings have to be prepared to go to tender and some choosing between who we ask to bid and how we choose between them. Then the building contract needs to be administered, with attendant Health and Safety requirements and the builders paid once the work is checked.
PSA have quoted for this work, but as a registered charity it is good to show that we are getting value for money and proceeding prudently at every stage. So last week we interviewed 2 firms of Building Surveyors for the same work. These people deal with costings and builders daily and are renown for keeping a tight eye on the budget. It will give us a good comparison of who to take on to deliver St.John's Place. We hope to hear from them this week and make a decision on who will take on the project before the end of November. Remember, we're expecting to start work in April and move in in time for September 2015, so we've got to keep moving quite fast!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Local Giving

They're giving us money!

Sometimes you can't believe the way the world works! The government have promised to match fund anything given (up to £10) on the local giving website.
And then Wilts Community Foundation (bless 'em) have also promised to donate a further £10.

So basically if you go to and donate £10, we'll get £30 in return! (and even more if you can gift-aid it).

Here's the catch - the government only put £1.5 million into this scheme, and all the other cunning charities have been doing this for ages, and we've only just caught up, so most of the money is gone. In fact there's less than £100,000 left. So be quick, only give a tenner, and we'll be another step closer to making St.Johns a reality!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Planning Approval At Last !!

Yes, Yes, Yes!!

We finally have planning permission approved by Wiltshire Council for St.John's place! This is fantastic news and now means we can get cracking on detailed plans, and building regulations and all those other "next steps"!

Thanks to the Diocesan Board of Education increasing their grant, we are now at £245,000 in funds given or pledged! This is more than the 68% of Phase 1 money that we said we'd need in order to start building in April next year!

We are still fund-raising though, and there is a long way to go. We are also still committed to getting value for money and are exploring the best procurement route for the building.

Next step will be recruiting more volunteers as well for help with the Christmas Concert, administration and publicity.

Be a part of it, get ready to sign up, because yes, its going to happen!!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Good news - Church change of use agreed

To create StJohns Place we need approval from the Church of England as well as the local planning authority.

Last Thursday there was a meeting at Church House in Westminster of the Church Closure and Re-use Committee to consider our case. They heard the very reasonable concerns of local residents about parking and noise and hours of use, and said that they felt that we could work these details out locally, and they were happy for the plans to go ahead.

It was a good reminder that as well as the building project we need to be working on how St.Johns Place will operate on a day to day basis, and making sure that everyone is involved in the discussions.

There's lots to be done in the next 12 months but we have now completed another hurdle and got one step closer to saving this building and making a great space for the whole community.

Thanks for all your support and involvement
And especial thanks to Ivy Picton - whose bric-a-brac sale in St.Johns last weekend raised £130.35. 
Do sing up to get regular email news bulletins. Things are beginning to move faster now.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Planning latest..

First - Don't forget the bric-a-brac sale in the porch - 1:00pm - Sat 13th Sept

Well, would you 'Adam and Eve' it? Not only did the Diocesan Director of Education retire last summer, depriving us a fruitful contact and leaving us to re-establish links and hang on to £50k of funding, but now our Planning Officer left the council! Why won't people stand still on our chess board?! What this means is that our plans, submitted on April 28th to Wiltshire Council, are in danger of just begin forgotten, and not dealt with for months. We don't have that time to spare, we need to be starting building by April 1st 2015, so we've asked our local councillor, John Walsh, to do something about it. We wait with interest.

Meanwhile next week I have a trip to Church House in London (its a bit like the Ministry for Magic in Harry Potter, but harder to find!) to persuade the committee that its really a good idea to close the church and re-use it as a community centre and worship space with the school. I've no idea how it will go, but if they say "no" it would seriously shipwreck our current plan. So here's hoping.

Good news is that I heard today we have another £25 k in grants, and an astonishingly generous funeral last week donated the collection of over £600 - so we are getting there. Thanks for all the support and encouragement. It will be so worth it to save this amazing building and to have a place for the community to meet at last.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Prayer and Pennies

New developments!!  First a jumble sale in St.John's on Saturday 13th September at 1:00pm. Please come and support us, on your way to Quidhampton Village Fete. It may seem like a few pennies compared to the total we have to reach, but it all helps, and helps raise the profile!

BBC Wilts announced on 24 August  that "a 7ft tall thermometer measuring the success of a fund raiser at Athelstan Players in Malmesbury, has been stolen". So if someone offers you one for St.John's Place please say no!

If every little penny helps, then every prayer helps too. We're going to start a monthly prayer meeting to pray for the success of the project - first one on Tues 23rd Sept, 7:30 in St.Johns - after that we'll move into the warmth of St.Andrews. All are most welcome to join us.

No, we still haven't heard more from the planners, but I'll be chasing them up this week.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Help Wanted! It could be you!

We had a great meeting of the Core Group last week (it was Part II, as Part I was shortened because of the football world cup - remember that?). We have begun to shape our project plan - 110 tasks or so, with deadliness and dependencies and milestones. Its great to have all that needs to be done in one place. Its also daunting! We went through and assigned people responsible for lots of jobs - we have a treasurer, we have fundraisers, but there were quite a few blank spaces - a job needs doing, but we have no person!
So here is the preliminary list - please let me know if it might be you!!
a part time paid administrator
a minutes secretary for the Core Group
a Bemerton St.John school gate representative
a web site designer
someone to manage our database of supporters

Without you, it really won't happen!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

What's it all about?

Sometimes when tasks get hard (or just downright overwhelming) its good to remind yourself - why am I doing this? So as we wait for the news any moment from planning, and consider that we've not reached half way in fundraising but there's only 9 months or so until we're supposed to start building - gulp! I feel the need to ask myself - why?!
Why do we want to create St.John's Place?
1 Because if we don't, the building will be closed and left to fall down - which would be a great loss to the village, to those with memories attached. It would also be an eyesore and if anyone wanted to bring it back to use in years to come, they would have an even bigger job.
2 Because communities need places to gather in - it could be the pub - but we don't have one. It could be a village hall - but we don't have one of those either. Lower Bemerton and Quidhampton don't have a post office or village shop - so there's no place for community to grow. Here is the gift of space.
3 Because the school needs room to expand if its going to thrive. It can't expand on its current site unless they build a second storey. What folly to bus pupils to locations elsewhere for facilities which could be housed opposite.

These are the reasons I'm working for this. The honest truth is I'm not worried about the church bit of it all - theres's a good church building 100 yards down the road and another in the heart of the parish. This isn't about church, its about communities. Your community. Lets keep going, however hard it gets, because you're worth it!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Services in Churchyard

What’s happening?
Underground Services!
You may have noticed digging happening in the churchyard at St.John’s. Don’t Worry!
This is perfectly legal and planned!
We are installing gas and water supplies to the building, for the first time in 150 years, so that it will be ready to be transformed next year into St.John’s place.

This has been made possible by a generous grant from Wiltshire Village Hall Association.

There has been an archaeological survey to determine the best route and we have tried to avoid disturbing any of our “residents”. Someone is on hand, however, should we run into anything unexpected!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Bemerton Open Gardens - back again by popular demand
The beautiful gardens and riverside views of Lower Bemerton will be open once more to the public on
Sunday June 15th.
Nine gardens will be open along Lower

Road, with teas and plant sales in St John’s Church.
This year there will be two added attractions. A scarecrow competition open to all, with the scarecrows displayed by arrangement in the gardens and in the Bemerton Recreation Ground or St John’s churchyard.
And Art in the Garden at 117 Lower Road (Glenna Ferdinando, and at
3 St Andrews Road (Lindsay Keir).

This lovely neighbourly event is raising money to convert St John’s Church for use as a community centre.
Gardens Open
Sunday 15th June 2-5 pm.
Admission to all nine gardens £5. Teas, jams, plants and garden tools for sale. More details from 01722 326261.
--- AND ---
Lower Bemerton Scarecrow
A Village competition alongside the Lower Bemerton Open Gardens Event Sunday 15th June
Anyone can enter, no form, no entry fee
Display scarecrows in your own front garden, or with permission in one of the open gardens, the Rec or St John’s graveyard.
Judging will be by Mayor of Salisbury Cllr Jo Broom on
the morning of June 15th with two prizes, one for children one for adults.
If you want your scarecrow to be judged you need to drop a note in at Gecko Cottage 117 Lower Road or email with your name and scarecrow’s location to More details from Glenna on 01722 332595.
Suggestions on making a scarecrow at Scarecrow 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Good news at Planning

This week saw both parts of the planning process cross the starting line (!).

So to close the church we have to apply to the Church Commissioners to make it redundant (and later we will ask the Bishop to make it legal for weddings and services again. If that seems complicated it was because we advised against the other route of partial redundancy by the Church Commissioners). Like Council Planners, the Commissioners publish a scheme and ask for comments. There has been one negative comment and several positive. There may need to be an enquiry or hearing either in July or September - but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

On June 5th the planning application to the council was closed and the real business of scrutinising our proposals began. They have a lot of statutory duties to consider, and its not an emotional decision but  guided by all sorts of clear point systems. But we live in an era of the Localism Bill where people power makes a difference.

I have been overwhelmed to find we have over 45 letters of support - which is an amazing feat in itself and sends a clear message. Thank you so much!

And of the others consulted, only the society for the protection of ancient buildings (SPAB) seem to want the pews kept and things unchanged in an unhelpful way - all the rest are for us - even English Heritage have been very encouraging with just a few minor tweaks that I'm sure we can manage.

Its been a great week!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

We had 3 public meetings in May - and over 100 people came and heard about the new plans and saw the images and the scale of what's needed to do.
Lots of you have written in to the Planners and Church Commissioners in support of the plans - thank you! We should hear in the next month (July) what the planners think of it. We've had a cautious letter of support from English Heritage which is amazing!
Thank you to all who have given or pledged to give so far - a hugely encouraging £40,000 so far from the community! Nearly half way to that particular total.
We've had such a great response its going to take a while to thank you all individually - but we''ll get there.
No good news from Wilts Local Education Authority yet - they are still playing politics  - pass the parcel from one desk to another, but we're keeping the pressure up.
Some disappointments from major grant givers too - a couple of "no's", but we've still got lots of irons in the fire including a bid to the National Lottery for £100k. More prayer or fingers crossed - whichever is your style!
We're also making progress on the project plan and critical path, and to dealing with our PR and website. We really need help with our databases and in lots of ways, and in the next few weeks should be able to appeal for help with particular jobs.
Finally, Bemerton Community Ltd elected some new Directors at our AGM - Ben Thornton, who is a solicitor and parent at the school, and Vaughan Watts who is Chair of School governors, and Hilary Bird, the churchwarden. All bring valuable expertise and skills to the group.
Things are happening!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Thank you! To all who came to the public meeting on May 1st in St.Johns it was awesome!
Here's what's been happening
New Logo and name  -
Plans finally drawn up and submitted to planning
(you can support by sending letters to the church planners and the council planners - model letters here)
A timetable of phased building works  - starting work in April 2015
A serious money finding mission has begun.
We're asking for £100,000 from the local community - 1/6 of the total cost!
But its possible.

We're now also on Facebook  - St. John's Place

and twitter -


Keep in touch. its all happening!


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Welcome back!
A significant pause in the process has come to an end. There had been a slow down of progress as we got bogged down with not having our plans approved by English Heritage and also the struggle to find financial backing. Both of these were because we didn't really have any end users - other than saying we wanted to give the village a community space, the conservationists were reluctant to let us take the pews out until we had definite users. The same story came from grant making bodies. Reluctantly the Parochial Church Council said that they couldn't afford to just let the project run indefinitely, and set a deadline of Dec 2014 to finally close the building.
And that's when things happened!
The school then said - we're bursting at the seams, we need more space but can't expand on our site. AND we can afford to pay a decent rent to be major tenants all day, every school day! Suddenly we had our user, and the rest has been like a ball gathering speed as it rolls downhill.
We had an exciting first meeting of the year of Bemerton Community Ltd - Peter Webster stood down after many faithful years as chair - he is now focussing on this summer's George Herbert Festival, and yours truly was elected interim chair.
We are gathering support from school parents and will be hosting a series of meetings soon to let everyone know what is going on.
In the meantime, I'll try to keep the blog updated so you can know what is happening - spread the word!