Locals urged to ‘get involved’ as church plan moves on

By Forester Reporter   |   Reporter   |
Saturday 19th February 2022 7:00 am
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Property manager Les Love and town clerk Emma Bennett outside the former Cinderford Methodist Church. ()

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The new owners of the former Methodist church in Cinderford are encouraging local people to get involved in the next chapter of its development.

Cinderford Town Council took ownership of the building on Belle Vue Road last week.

The council plans to convert the building into an arts and community centre as part of the Forest’s successful “Levelling Up” bid.

The town council has also agreed to call the new arts centre The Wesley – reflecting  the affectionate name many local people have used for the church over the years.

Les Love, the town council’s property manager, told councillors it was “incredibly important” that the centre was seen as a place for everyone and that they get involved in the development of the other buildings in the project, the former HSBC Bank and Rheola House.

She said: “‘I encourage people to come the bank and the church to see what is happening and to let them know they are never excluded from anything and to let them know their opinion counts very much as part of this community process.

“This is very much your building so please, please do take part.”

Speaking about the church she said: ““It’s incredibly important that we send out the message that this is for everybody, not just Cinderford but to everyone in the Forest of Dean and to make it a building of standing and of note and of identity.”

Councillors enthusiastically approved the name The Wesley Centre: The Forest of Dean Community and Arts Centre.

Cllr Chris Brown, who steered the £880,000 Cinderford element of the Levelling Up bid, said the suggested name had been unanimously agreed by the well-attended stakeholders’ meeting.

He said: “There have been concerns as there would be with any building that has been well-used and well loved for a long time around continuity, the purpose and heritage of that space and I think that maintains that well.

“Its progressive and exciting and the best of both worlds. I love it and I’m really excited about it.’’

Cllr  Di Martin said: “We can’t live in history but it can be celebrated.

“It wasn’t called the Methodist Church it was called the Wesley.

“I think historically it’s a really good idea.”

Cllr Tim Holder added: “Everyone knows it as the Wesley and calls it the Wesley and hopefully they always will.”

Ms Love said she had also met with Rev Denise Hargreaves, the Methodist Minister, to discuss progress.

She said: “We need to make them feel valued, that they are still part of that building and make sure that they are incredibly welcome as everyone will be and I hope that has been made clear.”

The next stage of the process will be surveys of the church, Rheola House in Belle Vue Road and the former HSBC in The Triangle.

She said: “The bank is going to be visited on February 16 as is the clock tower.

“The Wesley and Rheola House will be visited in the first week of March.

“That is to make up the scope of works that are needed to lift up the buildings and will give us direction where to spend your money.

“The quotes are coming in for the solar energy, the heating systems, the security system

“Everything is on its way.

“Once they are in, the schedule of works will be in place.”

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