News - Letter from the Moderator at United Reformed Church Wessex Synod on Throop Church

NEW - 24th September 2012 // UPDATED 12th March 2013

NEW - 12th March 2013

E-mail from Councillor Ron Whittaker to Clare Downing, Moderator - United Reformed Church Wessex Synod
11th March 2013
Throop United Church / Manse

Dear M/s Downing.

Over past months I have tried to find out as to what is happening to the two listed buildings, Church and Manse at Throop. I know I don't need to go into the past issues over the last three years, but clearly due over to time the condition to both buildings is showing considerable deterioration, especially the Manse, although windows all boarded up much of the panel glass is damaged.

As you know the Orthodox church in Winton wrote a detailed letter in 2010 WHICH I PASSED ON TO YOUR Executive officer, for whatever reason and after the secretary for St Peters and St Pauls Coptic church trying many times by leaving phone messages no one from Wessex Trust made contact.

The lovely small church in Winton has an ever growing congregation and they wish to find suitable church premises to return for Sunday School and area for children's play, both the Church and Manse offer these facilities.

I have approach Nader Francis to find out if any such contact has been made, after all this is now approaching three years, I also know a number of interest have been shown for the manse by outsiders.

As you can see from Nader that the trust has not made any contact for talks but the church are still showing interest.

Again naturally the media are asking me as to what is happening, including residents, I am raising my endless concerns again with officers as I just cannot understand why the Trust seems unable to engage in any fruitful discussions / negotiations with this very highly respected Orthodox church.

I was told in 2011 by your appointed agents that they would engage, that seems never to have happened.

Councillor Ron Whittaker

NEW - 24th September 2012

E-mail Reply from Councillor Ron Whittaker
19th September 2012
RE: Throop Church

Dear M/s Downing.

Can I thank you and Gill for the way you both have taken this forward, and as you say it has cause untold stress and yes distress to so many individuals within the area of Throop and outside, I have been sent a copy of the letter [7th September] to Mr. Maclean from the Richmond Hill St. Andrews Elders Meeting where clearly they have "deep concerns over the continuing and sad situation at the site of the former United Reformed Church and Burial Ground". I trust you have by now seen the letter from Brian Rawling [Rev] Chairman, pro tem. I have been in touch and thank him and the elders for their comments and support, as Elaine a former councillor turned up with another member to help out on the community day.

You make reference to a possible conversation of church and redevelop the Manse and Grounds. Naturally on this I cannot comment. All I know is for the past 28 months, The Secretary of St. Peter and St Pauls Orthodox Church, wrote on the 4th May 2010 to myself expressing their interest in maintaining the building as a place of Christian Worship, I then wrote on the 10th enclosing the letter, at that time also two other churches had shown interest.

It being in November 2010, we were then told that the trust meeting had agreed that the church would be occupied by the Bournemouth International Church under a full repairing and insuring lease by Christmas 2010 with Tenants in February for the Manse, as we all know nothing happened which then left the grounds and building to start to deteriorate. With then ongoing and endless emails to council officers and to the agents appointed by the trust.

But more importantly I know that Nader Francis. Who I add is a Consultant Clorectual Surgeon at Yeovil District Hospital, and is very highly regarded in the community, and has at present a very small but expanding / growing congregation, my fears are that after these years that the church might have now been looking elsewhere, due entirely to not having any of the CALLS MADE RETURNED, WHY!!!

I really think questions have to be asked why has no one ever made contact when so many requests were made, on the 16th July, I was told by the agents that "Anticipate being able to talk to Nader Francis in the next few weeks", two months later no call. Appreciate you have so rightly said sorry for the break down in communications, have to ask what communication, as there was now until Gill and yourself become involved through Richard Lane and his time spent in visiting to London.

Now to the letter to Residents, I personally think that it is owed to the residents of the village, numbering around 230 properties I am in touch with those on email who I will copy in on my email, think naturally if any application comes in, that will without doubt cause much discussion, so if and when that does come forward I think if we cannot secure a place for the church, the trust should then consider holding a community event to explain the thinking and plans, regarding the two listed buildings, also naturally you will by then I take it involved both English heritage and society for the protection of ancient buildings [know as SPAB].

Meantime a short letter to those properties backing onto the church yard explaining the plan for community payback scheme and yes how it is to be policed, and the plans for the regular church graveyard up keep.

Again I thank you, think Mr. Maclean could learn much from yourself and Gill Nichol,

Councillor Ron Whittaker

Letter from Clare Downing
15th September 2012
RE: Throop Church

United Reformed Church
Wessex Synod
120, Alma Road
Southampton
SO14 6UW

15th September 2012

Dear Councillor Whittaker,

Many thanks for your email. Like you, I also hope that we are finally on the way to resolving the issues around Throop churchyard.

As you read in my letter to Richard Lane, I am very sorry for the time it has taken to make arrangements for the long-term upkeep of the graveyard - and the stress and distress this has caused you and the other villagers. I am also sorry that our communications have not been good enough - but I can promise that they will now improve.

You raise several points and I will answer each below.

1. I am happy to write a letter to all householders in Throop and perhaps you and I can work together on that, specifically with regard to the best way to distribute it.

2. Mr MacLean has received email correspondence connected with the use of the Community Payback scheme and is responding directly to the writer. He has offered to try and arrange a meeting between residents and representative(s) from the Dorset Probation Trust and, if this is something that is wanted, we will do our utmost to arrange it as soon as possible and before the work is due to start on 2nd October. I note your acknowledgement of the potential benefits of working constructively with offenders and I am grateful for that.

3. I have written to Mr Whitely thanking him for all his work at Throop over the years.

4. The letter to Mr Lane focused exclusively on the upkeep of the grounds, as that has been his major concern.

5. As to the points you raise about the actual church and manse: it is a cause of great regret that both buildings have stood empty for so long. Unfortunately, this is quite a common situation across all denominations and geographical locations. Churches have to close when keeping them open is not viable because the church membership is not sufficient to allow the church to continue functioning. Following a closure, charity law requires the trustees of the Wessex Synod Trust to obtain the best price reasonable in the circumstances for its buildings and if that is from another denomination who are committed to continuing to use the buildings as a church and as a manse, the trustees will be supportive of that.

Now that it is known that the buildings are not suitable for the mission work of the Bournemouth International Church, I understand that our agents are in contact with the Coptic Orthodox Church in response to their interest in the church and the school rooms.

In order to further explore what is the best price reasonable in the circumstances, the trustees will also be renewing their efforts to obtain outline planning permission to enable a future buyer to convert the church and the school rooms into two houses and to redevelop the manse and its garden.

I hope this answers the questions raised in your email.

I look forward to hearing from you, specifically with regard to the matter of an open letter to all Throop householders.

Yours sincerely,
Clare Downing
Moderator - United Reformed Church Wessex Synod