Our church does not have an accessible toilet within or easily reached from the church itself which is a major issue particularly for church users with access needs, our older parishioners and families with small children. This is often highlighted by visitors to our church at funerals, baptisms and other similar gatherings. It also means we are not compliant with the Equality Act of 2010 which sets out that facilities being offered must provide equal access to toilets for disabled customers/ visitors to the same standard as non-disabled people. Proper baby changing facilities are also not available.
In 2019 an investigation of options for an accessible toilet to be incorporated into the existing church spaces, such as the sacristies or reconciliation room, was undertaken which highlighted that no such suitable area existed. Furthermore, when the scope was expanded to incorporate ground floor facilities for non-access users the only realistic solution was to build a toilet block extension adjacent to and with direct access from the church. Designs for a new toilet facility was initially undertaken by a parishioner and then contracted to a local architect who refined the design and progressed it to obtain planning permission and building control approval in early 2020. Enlarged extracts from the Planning Permission drawings are below, with the full elevation drawing in the attached downloadable Pdf at the end of this post.
The Front Elevation with the Tower base on the right.
Side elevation with the North Chapel on the left.
The project was delayed through much of 2020 and 2021 with Covid restrictions and its fallout, particularly the impact on church income. In spring of 2022 the project was restarted and approval was sought from the diocese Art and Architecture Committee which was obtained mid-year. A very detailed building contractor tender process was undertaken with final selection and recommendation being made in December 2022 and approved by the diocese Property, Health and Safety and Finance committees in early January 2023.
The plan below shows the layout of the new toilets. One of the design features is the use of push button automatic opening doors from the church into the toilets and exiting in the other direction. In addition, the accessible toilet itself will have an electric hoist system to assist in the transfer of users from chair to toilet and back. Each cubicle will be equipped with its own washing facility and baby changing facilities. The new block will also meet all health and safety requirements as monitored by Lewisham Council building control. Particular attention has also been paid to additional double glazing for the existing two windows into the church, which are already opaque, and the use of a lobby area between the chapel door and the main toilet entry to ensure good soundproofing. The full plan submitted to Lewisham Council is in the downloadable Pdf at the end of this post.
In the elevation and plan views above, it will be seen that as a part of this project, a covered cycle shelter is being build between the base of the tower and the new extension with bars to allow eight bicycles to be secured. We hope this will encourage greater use of bicycles when travelling to church. Additionally, you may notice that the new construction will cover the existing two accessible parking spaces for blue badge holders. At the end of construction, two new clearly marked accessible width parking bays will be laid out in the front parking area – again for blue badge holders – similar to the illustration.
Comments and Next Steps
Construction of the new facilities will start in the week commencing 15th February under the supervision of our architects, Kappa Planning, and last about 10 weeks. One of the first steps will be to construct a timber hoarding around the building site and plant store. This will ensure safe separation from the works for users of the Upper Room and Hall. However, we do ask that people take extra care when moving around in the area in front of and adjacent to the hoardings. Caution will be particularly important when deliveries to site are being made. Measures will also be taken in the chapel itself to minimise disruption when installing the new entrance doorway.
We will publish updates and photos as the work progresses.
One thing we have not mentioned is the cost of this new building which will be in excess of £100,000. This will obviously have a big impact on our parish finances. Additionally, we have other work which needs to be undertaken in the coming year in the parish house to address health and safety issues which were recently highlighted and facilities upgrades in the parish centre to renovate some of the 30+ year old building. We will address the financial challenges all this will present after Easter 2023.
If you have any questions or comments then please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org