£1.5 million development plans for St Elisabeth’s, Harraby

A Carlisle church is seeking planning approval for an ambitious redevelopment which could cost up to £1.5 million.

The Rev'd Sue WicksChurch authorities have already given full approval for the scheme at St. Elisabeth’s, Harraby, and the plans have now been submitted to Carlisle City Council.

The proposals include a new drop-in community café, sports hall/function room, showering facilities and accessible toilets. There is also a plan to landscape the grounds to make them more attractive and safer to use.

The Rev’d Sue Wicks, Vicar of St Elisabeth’s, said: “This is an exciting development for which much research and planning has already taken place over a number of years. It is a response not just to church growth, but to our service within our community.

“The facilities will provide opportunities to meet, to socialise, to keep fit, to share family functions, to chat over a coffee, to have a well-cooked meal. It is an opportunity to change lives for the better as we reach out in mission to those around us.

“In the twenty-first century there is a need to make sure church buildings are well-used and have a purpose for the whole community. St. Elisabeth’s will remain a worship centre, yet at the same time provide facilities for every day community use.

“We have already been involved in many fund-raising opportunities, including participating in a recent long-distance walk in Southern Ireland. We are delighted to have the help and support of our patrons, who are very much in favour of what the new development project has to offer.”

The project, which is likely to cost £1.5 million, is being done as a response to the needs of local people living within an Urban Priority Area which, nationally, is ranked 1526 out of 7976 deprived areas, with number 1 being the most deprived. With the backing of the project’s patrons, it is hoped to have the development up and running and accessible to serve the community within three years.

Sue added: “The need for such facilities was clearly demonstrated during the recent flooding. Being situated on higher ground the building is in a good position to be available as an emergency centre. The lack of adequate toilet and kitchen facilities prevented this, although the space was used for emergency collections.

“A team of volunteers and myself, quickly and efficiently set up the church as a distribution centre to collect food, water and toiletries and make up much needed emergency parcels.

“During two weeks, 470 food boxes and bags of toiletries were prepared and distributed with the shelf value of the food alone being £28,500 and at least £4,700 for the toiletries.

“With the new development, it could easily become an emergency reception centre, as well as meeting other urgent community needs.”

St Elisabeth’s Church was built and consecrated as a new church in 1967. At that time the design won an Architectural Award and the new plans, prepared by Raymond Whittaker and David Blair of Architects Plus, are in keeping with the present building but provide for modern needs.

The forward-thinking vicar and her Church Council are united in their vision to serve the whole community. In order to provide these much needed community facilities, the unused bell tower would need to be removed. The tower is not water tight and over recent years has cost tens of thousands of pounds to maintain. The Church Council and Church authorities consider that a church working for social action is more important than keeping an inadequate building that cannot be used for practical purposes. Nevertheless, they will make every effort for the bells to be either used in another church or to be stored safely.

The mission statement of St. Elisabeth’s Church is ‘to become a family where our love for Jesus inspires our worship, our care for one another, and our service in the community’, and the new development is a continuation of these aims. Current activities within the parish (including children’s groups for 0-16 year olds, a weekly drop-in for coffee and tea, coffee mornings and social functions) have grown and need more space.

“At the same time, if planning permission allows, we want to provide an attractive new building for all to use, which will meet the needs of both church and community and allow us to work together more efficiently,” said Sue.

“We are excited and enthusiastic about the future and the opportunities this development will provide, and we hope others will be too!”


Notes for editors
The patrons of St Elisabeth’s, Harraby are Mr Andrew Bailey; The Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Claire Hensman; Lady Inglewood; Lord Inglewood; The Bishop of Carlisle, The Rt Revd James Newcome; The Venerable Kevin Roberts; Councillor Lee Sherriff and Mr John Stevenson, MP.

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For further information please contact The Rev’d Sue Wicks on 07772 904666 or 01228 596427 or Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager on 07469 153658, 01228 815401 or at communications@carlislediocese.org.uk.