Tuesday, January 19, 2010

West entrance plans under scrutiny

This lunchtime the Diocean Advisory committee came en masse and held a site meeting with us to discuss our overall plans for the west end of the church, and possibly the George Pace designed Vestry block. We were joined by Mr Wright, an architect representing the 20th Century Society - a specialist group with a conservation interest in architecture and furnishings of the period, and one of the constitutionally determined consultation partners with a right to comment on changes proposed to church fabric.

If there's an objection to what we propose to do, the Chancellor of the diocese calls a Consistory Court to receive full representations from interested parties in order to inform him on his ruling. Inevitably such events are costly in terms of both time and energy, so any possibility to sort things out before the process reaches this outcome is to be embraced. This meeting was needed because of our desire to relocate the west end internal porch designed by renowned architect George Pace back in the 1970s. It has become something of a safety hazard with the increased volume of one-off visitors to the church we now receive. We live in dread of any more serious accidental falls in the area of the porch and adjoining step. We've done our best without removing the porch but this has not resolved the problem.

Common sense dictates that removal and re-arranging the entrance area to make access that much safer is necessary. Church rules and regulations demand a lengthy process with uncertain outcome. Rules are so sacred that the only conceivable solution in the enforcers' mind is not to use the porch (our principal entrance), while the procedure is followed, if we are concerned, no matter how long it takes. Our dear church members are so much more patient and persistent than I shall ever be with all this. I shall be glad to dissociate myself from this 'religious' world view, whose fear of administrative 'disorder' and people taking their own initiatives makes the burden of managing these prize assets an even more difficult and unpalatable a task for volunteers.

A dozen of us were present for the meeting. We went carefully over all the issues touching upon the need for remedial action, and our plans to open up the west end and improve meeting facilities in church by extending the vestry block with a new floor in the roof void. We went over in summary form all the various discussions of the pros and cons of alternative measures contemplated over the past three years. Everyone behaved themselves well, despite the sense of resentment the home team feels at having its own sense of responsibility curbed by interested parties who in the end give advice but no practical help or funding.

I think our potential objector appreciated the problem we face having seen it in context, and he was open to the idea of the porch being relocated as part of a proposed extension of the vestry block. All this still needs to be rendered in proper documentary form to assist the process. Let's hope that what we produce will make as much sense as we feel it should, after living with this unresolved problem for so long.

After the meeting, I hopped on a bus to go to the Heath hospital for a couple of visits. Traffic was busy and very slow in both directions going there. A passenger who got on the bus talked about a 'jumper' on the Gabalfa roundabout flyover. It took a moment for the penny to drop. When I crossed the road bridge over Western Avenue near the hospital entrance, I could see the tail-back on the carriageway below and a police car diverting traffic on to the roundabout.

From the upper stories of A block, overlooking the road, I could just see a few policemen standing atop the flyover, and the figure of someone else sillhouetted against the guard rail - a drama that had been unfolding for several hours, it appeared. Staff members kept popping out from the wards into the stairwell as I ascended, to take a peek at the distant scene. I can only presume that the news had gone out on local radio. Traffic was still bad when I left, so bad that I walked all the way home, rather than face an equal amount of time sitting in a bus that would only take me half way there.

After cooking a seafood paella for supper, I spent several hours drafting a summary statement in support of the Faculty petition already made, explaining the circumstances and needs surrounding our proposal. I hope this will go some way towards making progress to a satisfactory conclusion.

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