The future of the Methodist Church

Methodist Church – Update


Freeland ‘Village Hub’ Questionnaire

Thank you to everyone who completed the Freeland "Village Hub" questionnaire.  The Survey is now closed.


We will share the results of the questionnaire exercise with the whole village in a public meeting on Monday 4th December at 8.00pm in Freeland Village Hall. If the residents of Freeland indicate their strong support for the proposal, then a Steering Committee will be formed to undertake the hard detailed work necessary to find out the terms and conditions of the sale of the church, assess the feasibility of buying it, and prepare a business plan, a funding plan, etc.


Background

The Methodist Church in the centre of Freeland, adjacent to the Village Hall and Recreation Ground, has been closed for worship and will soon be sold. Built in 1807, it is one of the oldest buildings in the village.



Plans for a ‘Village Hub’


A small informal working group is trying to find out whether there is enough support from Freeland residents for us to try and buy the building to use for the benefit of the community. It might be used mainly as a café and/or shop, but could also provide additional services as required (e.g. a post office, parcel drop-off/pick-up, and another social space for villagers). It would then become a social hub for the village providing an ‘open all day’ facility where residents could meet informally and for groups.


If the building were to be purchased by the community, the facilities would be run by a cooperative with membership open to all residents of the village on the purchase of a single share. Members would vote for a Managing Committee. We would expect the café and/or shop (the ‘Village Hub’) to employ one or more managers and be supported by volunteers. Further shares could be purchased as an investment in the enterprise.


The working group has been set up to investigate the feasibility of buying the building, and positive feedback was received at an open meeting in September (for further details, please see below). The work involved, however, in establishing such an enterprise would be considerable and would need the support of the majority of Freeland residents in order to succeed.



Questions


If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch:


♣     by email: freelandsocialhub@gmail.com


♣     by phone: Alaa Al-Yousuf (880689) or Colin Smith (881704).


Further Information


The following provide useful further information or resources:


Plunkett Foundation (www.plunkett.co.uk) – which supports people, predominantly in rural areas, to set up and run community co-operatives, enterprises that are owned and run democratically by large numbers of people in their community.


A good example of what can be achieved: www.ilmingtonshop.co.uk


Information on investing in community enterprises:


-     http://communityshares.org.uk


-www.gov.uk/government/publications/social-investment-tax-relief-factsheet/social-investment-tax-relief


Report on Village Meeting – 18 September 2017


A second village meeting, to discuss ideas for the future of the now-closed Methodist Church was held in September and attended by 42 people.


Members of the working group reported on their investigations to date, and discussed how the building might be purchased and used by our community. There was an encouraging positive response from those attending the meeting, but it was recognised that for such a community initiative to be successful, the support of the majority of village residents would be needed. A questionnaire has now been issued to gauge the level of support from the village as a whole and to provide metrics that would be needed if we proceed to develop a business plan.


At the meeting, an example was shown of a successful village cooperative in Ilmington, where a redundant church was purchased and turned into a community shop and café. There are many other examples throughout the country of communities coming together to secure local assets and successfully run them cooperatively. It was suggested that a similar course of action might be taken in Freeland. Advice and help on planning, funding, legal, set up and management issues is readily available, through organisations such as the Plunkett Foundation: www.plunkett.co.uk


It was, however, also acknowledged that there are still many unknowns which are critical to the success of the initiative, including the sale price and maintenance costs of the building.

After the presentation people split into small groups for discussion. Feedback from these groups showed strong support for the concept of the church being used for a café, which would be open all day. It would provide a meeting place for both groups of individuals and organisations, and be a much needed social hub for the village. Other suggestions included a library; an area for exhibitions of art, crafts and photography; a part-time Post Office; a parcel drop-off and collection point; and a resource centre providing local information (e.g. bus timetables, events, information for tourists). Whilst people liked the idea of also having a shop, it was felt that this would be more difficult to set up and, in order for it to be profitable, it would require people in the village to change their current shopping habits. A number of attendees said they would volunteer to serve in a cafe or shop, help in other ways and be prepared to invest in the cooperative.