Project Documents

St John the Evangelist – Ashton Hayes

Statement of Needs

October 2015

Section 1.  General information

The parish of Ashton Hayes, which was originally part of the parish of Tarvin, was formed in 1849 and consists of the villages of Ashton Hayes and Mouldsworth and the hamlet of Horton cum Peel. The total population is quoted as 1263 in the 2015 edition of the Diocesan Handbook and there are 132 people on the electoral roll for the parish.

The parish as a whole is very community minded. Ashton Hayes in particular has invested heavily in its community shop, its Time Bank, Snow Angels and its new recreation field. In addition to this, the village has the declared target of becoming the first in England to be carbon neutral and already has its own Community Energy Company which trades surplus energy generated within the village. Further projects currently being considered include the formation of a community land trust and the purchase of the local pub, should it become available.

A large majority of the population is in favour of reordering and updating the interior of the church to create a community-friendly space which can be used for activities in addition to worship. Objections, where these exist, tend to involve particular personal preferences for tradition and/or fear of change rather than concerns for the future. These contra-views are gradually being addressed on a one-to-one basis.

The parish councils of Ashton Hayes and Mouldsworth are both supportive and already contribute to the upkeep of the churchyard and they also assisted with the purchase of a new sound system for the church.

The church is viewed favourably within our community: even those who do not regularly take part in Sunday Worship view the building with some affection and speak of ‘their’ church. Weekly attendances (as a percentage of the total population) compare well with many other parishes in the diocese. For a period of approximately 13 years the parish of Ashton Hayes shared its incumbent and ministry team with the parish of Delamere. During that time average attendances fell but since the appointment of the present incumbent there has been a resurgence: numbers have recovered and the sense of spirituality is deepening.

The church is used by the local primary school at Easter, Harvest and Christmas and it is sometimes used as a concert venue. There are other special services (including weddings and funerals) at various times throughout the year where the attendance figures may reach or even exceed the maximum seating capacity of 150.

The schedule of services which take place in the church each Sunday is as follows –


The average attendances at the 9.00am services and 6.30pm Evensong are 10 and 6 respectively. The attendance at the First Sunday All-Age Service averages 66 (peaking at over 100) whilst that of the other morning services is nearer 30. The attendance at Village Praise averages 25 but could be higher with a bigger venue. The average age of our congregations exceeds 60 years apart from the All-Age Services which tend to attract a greater number of younger parents and children.

The church has a flourishing choir: the average attendance at the 10.30am services is 12 but there are over 20 members in total. Music continues to be a positive aid for mission and outreach in this parish.

The last Quinquennial Inspection took place in June 2011. No major issues were reported and most of the minor ones have been addressed. However, since the inspection, the church has experienced the theft of lead from the roof: this had to be replaced.

The church building is open for visitors during daylight hours and has been listed as Grade II since 1985.

The financial position of the parish is closely monitored. In 2014 the excess of income over expenditure was £5,349. For 2015 the excess that being forecast is lower, at around £2,000, but this is due in the main to the proceeds of some of our regular events (our Summer Concert being one example) going to the Building Project Fund. We have also received some donations specifically for the Building Fund which may, under other circumstances, have been made to our general account. The majority of the parish’s finite reserves are held in trust for specific uses: these restrictions mean that they are not available for general use.

In terms of building projects, a previous appeal in 1985 raised over £57,000: that money was spent on urgent building repairs and redecoration of the interior of the church. The parish residents also contributed approximately £2,000 towards the replacement of the lead which was stolen from the roof in 2011.

Since the current appeal to enable the interior of the church to be re-ordered was launched, we have collected over £90,000. £25,000 of this was through a legacy and approximately £18,000 from the sale of a piece of land to the new owners of the Old Vicarage: the remainder has been collected though personal donations from members of the community. We have yet to seek grants from bodies outside the parish.

Section 2.  What do we need?

The immediate need is for a wheelchair accessible toilet and baby changing facilities. In addition there is a need for an area where refreshments may be prepared and safely consumed. However, releasing the potential within the church building for these facilities to be installed, will have knock-on effects that would be difficult, if not impossible, to address other than as part of a single project in order to minimise the overall costs and disturbance.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the replacement of the heating system which is old, inefficient and hazardous. The existing heating system limits access to parts of the church building but there are also steps which make it difficult for those with walking difficulties, wheelchair users and for pushchairs.

The overall aims are:

  1. To create a space which is more suited to the needs of a congregation in the 21st Century for worship. Comfort and flexibility of use feature high in these requirements.
  2. To create a space which is more suited to the needs of the community at large for holding meetings and events.
  3. To address and extend the potential life of the building as a community asset.
Section 3.  The Proposals


Consideration has been given to several locations where a toilet could be built and how many should be included in the project. The concept of a new, external building was quickly rejected on the basis of cost and because of the potential difficulty of obtaining planning permission for a new structure adjacent to a Grade II listed building sited within the green belt.

Inside the church building options are limited but the favoured site is in the area beneath the organ which is currently used as the choir vestry – the choir vestry would need to be resited. This space is sufficient for two toilets, one of which would be large enough to enable wheelchair access, and can easily be modified to afford the necessary privacy and adequate ventilation. In addition the space could be connected with relative ease to a septic tank (or similar) sited outside the building to the north of the tower – there are no mains drains on site or in the near vicinity.

Consideration is still being given to the type of collection tank which should be used. It could be a simple pump-out unit or a more sophisticated digester connected to soak-aways within the churchyard and would collect the outflow from both toilets and kitchen.

To enable wheelchair access to the new toilets the existing step would need to be removed and the heating pipes would need to be cut and isolated – this would remove at least two radiators from a system which even now sometimes struggles to provide sufficient heat.

However, to make this space available, robes, music and changing space for our flourishing choir would need to be rehoused.


Refreshments are currently served at the rear of the church in the area around the font but with difficulty as described earlier. The proposal here is to move the font to enable a kitchenette to be installed. The facility would be connected to mains water and any waste would flow to the waste tank described above. The kitchenette itself would be in a cupboard type structure which could be closed off when not in use and would contain a sink, a boiler, a fridge, a microwave and storage for items such as cups, saucers and cutlery.

A storage area with suitable access will be sited behind the kitchenette – this will be referred to again later.

The north aisle would be cleared of pews to create a space for relaxation and safe consumption of the refreshments. However, this area could quickly be returned to seating if the size of the congregation required it.

Heating and Insulation

Because we are in a village which is attempting to become carbon neutral, we would like to take this opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we are able.

The existing boiler is approximately 30 years old and was installed when gas first came to the village. Compared to modern boiler design it is inefficient and is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

The heat from the boiler is circulated around the church using a hot water distribution system and radiators. The pipework (mainly 3 – 4” diameter) is installed above ground at low level and predates the boiler. Having operated without water treatment it is likely to be in poor condition internally and there have been instances where the small diameter overflow/breather line has blocked – a hazard in itself. The pipework also restricts wheelchair access to the north aisle of the church.

It is proposed that a new, zoned underfloor heating system be installed and that the boiler be replaced with one, or possibly two, modern condensing units. However, to enable this installation to take place, the pews would have to be removed from the church and the ground beneath made good. As shown in the photograph, the pews are suspended above a 12-18” void which would need to be filled with a suitable material.

Obviously, removal of the pews also achieves the further objective of opening up the floor space to make it more flexible for other community uses but with them still in situ the heating installation in the main body of the church would be impossible. Where possible, the pews will be sold (interest has already been expressed by members of the community): where this is not possible the wood will be recovered and recycled.

The underfloor heating will extend into the chapel and into the toilet area on different zones.

In addition to improving the heating we would also like to install some insulation to the roofs of the nave and the north aisle. There have already been some discussion with the DAC about this but our reasons for the proposed installation are set out in Appendix A at the end of this document.

We will be considering secondary glazing for the windows at a later date, possibly as part of another project.

The Chapel

As the main body of the church is made more open, we would like to be able to provide a suitable area for private prayer and small meetings. It is therefore proposed that the chapel should be enclosed: this would be achieved using glass wherever possible to preserve light and sight lines but we return to the need to resite the choir vestry.

With its enclosure, it is proposed that this space is also used as a choir vestry during church services. To enable this, a wardrobe and storage cupboard  will be incorporated into the screen on the south side (behind the choir pews when viewed from the chancel).

The Font

The installation of the kitchenette at the western end of the north aisle means that the Font will have to be repositioned. It is proposed that the font be resited in the north-east corner of the north aisle. This new position and the open nature of the church without pews, means that the font will be more accessible to the congregation during baptism services: it will also not become an obstacle when the church is in use for other purposes.

Flexibility, Comfort and Accessibility

It has already been mentioned that pew removal will enable the body of the church to be used more flexibly. It is proposed that seating be provided using Howe 40/4 chairs which are both comfortable and stackable.

160 chairs, in oak finish, would be purchased: in the main these will be without arms but a number with arms will also be provided. The chairs can be linked when in use or stored in the area behind the kitchenette when not required.

The whole of the church will be on one of two levels. The main body of the church including the toilet area and access to the entrance and emergency exit will be at the lower level.

The floor of the chapel will be raised (by covering the existing floor which will remain in situ) to match the level of the chancel. A dais will be constructed across the front of the chapel and chancel with wheelchair access via a ramp in the north east corner of the north aisle (around the back of the repositioned font). All of the above constitutes level two.

To enable wheelchair access directly to the chancel across the dais, the pulpit will be moved to the south west corner of the nave: a place where it has been located previously. The steps to the pulpit will be modified to suit but its physical integrity will be preserved.

Other Proposed Changes

The following could be classed as stand-alone modifications and could be installed at a later date if the project funding is restricted.


The existing light fittings in the nave will be retained but the lighting levels will be augmented using low-energy LED uplighters. For maximum effect, the roof timbers will be repainted in a light colour.

Audio Visual

The church already has an excellent sound system installed. However, there is a need for a projector and screen.

It is proposed to suspend an automated screen from the roof behind the arch and immediately above the chancel steps. When activated, the screen will be lowered on wires to a suitable height before opening.

There are two possible places where the projector could be housed. The first is at the back of the church in the organ loft. However, there are likely to be projection difficulties due to  the amount of light from the windows on the west side of the church. The preferred option would therefore be to mount the projector discretely above the altar and back project onto the screen.

If the installation of this part of the project were to be delayed it would still be advisable to install the necessary audio visual wiring beneath the floor of the nave and around  the chancel.

The Front Door

In order to make the main entrance more welcoming, the inner main door will be replaced with a glass door. To maximise visibility and to reduce draughts to a minimum, the glass will be enclosed in a coated steel fame.

Parish Office – Emergency Escape Route

The entrance to the vicar’s vestry from the church is though two doors. It is proposed to remove the inner of these and part of the interior wall in order to open up the space to make it more suitable for use as a parish office and to simplify the exit so that it can be used for emergency egress. The outer door of the vestry will also be modified and an external ramp installed in order to make the exit suitable for wheelchairs.

Section 4. Why are these changes needed and why now?

Following the sale of the Old Vicarage and the closure of the adjacent Women’s Institute Hall the nearest toilet is across the road at the Village Hall. However, this does not provide easy access for wheelchair users and is not ideal for young children who have to be accompanied across a busy main road.

The lack of a dedicated refreshments preparation area means that water and other equipment have to be carried through the church building to the area around the font. During periods of fellowship this area becomes very congested resulting in the risk of spillages. There are also tripping hazards in the area.

Installation of the above facilities means that the heating distribution system would at least have to be heavily modified and it would be far more sensible to replace the whole system, in order to address its own shortcomings, at the same time.

Section 5.  Justification

The church is only used for a total of 4 or 5 hours per week which is a waste of a valuable asset. The parish would like to create an inviting, flexible space which would be made available for community activities in addition to its continued use as a place of worship.

Shortage of community spaces.

Community meeting facilities within the parish have altered dramatically over recent years. The WI Hall (adjacent to the church) has closed for economic reasons. Some users have moved across the road to the Village Hall but this is now so heavily booked on a regular basis that it is often not available for new or intermittent users at the required times. As an example, Ashton Hayes Theatre Club has had to move to Tarvin to gain access to suitable rehearsal and performance facilities: whilst there may be limitations on making the church available for extended periods for plays, we certainly could help as a venue for one-off performances and for rehearsals.

In the middle of the village the pub has closed and other meeting spaces are small. The Time Bank office can only accommodate approximately 6 people and the pavilion at the recreation ground can hold groups of 12. The Parish Room is able to accommodate groups of 20 but with its very limited parking and lack of accessible toilets it is not suitable for all. Finally, the Methodist Chapel, which was used for some community activities, was closed in 2013 and has recently been sold to a private owner.

Improvement of the Facilities

Even as a worship space, but more so as a community space, the church is short of facilities and the current seating is both uncomfortable and inflexible.

The loss of the Old Vicarage means that the church no longer has toilet facilities on site. This restricts the attendance of some of our older congregation members and children need to be accompanied to the toilet in the Village Hall – a situation that could be open to abuse: with in-house facilities older children could take themselves to the toilet. With the increased interest in child and vulnerable adult protection we feel that onsite, easily accessible facilities are a must.

Connecting with the community

One of the most difficult tasks for any church is that of persuading new people to cross the threshold into an unfamiliar environment. By inviting people in to take part in secular activities we believe that they may become more familiar with the surroundings and be willing to come along to church-led activities such as cafe or messy church. The existing space is far too restrictive for any of this to happen: it needs to be opened up and made far more flexible.

Creation of a New Income Stream.

Whilst we are not setting out with the primary aim of generating a new income stream, it is likely that if people feel that they own the space they will more readily contribute towards its upkeep. Current donations toward the building project demonstrate the existing affinity the public has for the building but we would like to expand on this.

Appendix A — Insulation

There has already been some discussion with the DAC concerning insulation of the roof of the nave and north aisle. Concerns have been expressed that insulating the interior of the roof would potentially entrap condensation and would fundamentally alter the appearance of the interior of the building. However, we feel that there are other important factors at play here which, in part at least, mitigate the comments received.

As part of the pre-investigation for this project, Energetic UK undertook an energy survey of the building. The survey highlighted the uninsulated roof but assumed that nothing could be done without constructing an inner roof space. King Span between the exiting joists was not offered as an alternative but on reflection this option appears feasible.

The case for insulation is as follows:

  1. The Church of England’s own website states

The Church is committed to a Carbon reduction target of 80% by 2050 (in line with Government commitments), with an interim target of 42% by 2020. Good practice is already established in many churches round the country.

In addition, Archbishop Justin Welby writes:

‘The present challenges of environment and economy, of human development and global poverty, can only be faced with extraordinary Christ-liberated courage. Actions have to change for words to have effect.’

  1. Ashton Hayes has the declared aim of becoming the first village in England to become carbon neutral and as a church we want to be seen to be connected with our community by playing our part in achieving this aspiration.Our existing links with the village’s Carbon Neutral Project mean that we may be able to tap into independent sources of funding to achieve the carbon reduction part of the project (Improved boiler efficiency and insulation.)
  2. The DAC has suggested that the insulation should be installed externally when the roof is “replaced”.The roof is maintained on an ongoing basis: in recent years loose slates have been reaffixed or replaced and flashing has been repaired where necessary. More extensive “replacement” work may be more than 30 years away and such a delay would inhibit us achieving the targeted 42% reduction in our like-for-like energy consumption by 2020.External installation would also, in our opinion, have a greater visual effect and introduce technical difficulties. The roofline would rise by the thickness of the insulation, plus the dimension of any ventilation space. The stonework at the ends of the building would have to be modified to suit the new roof height and the existing valley gutter would need to be converted to a box construction. The photograph to the right illustrates just one example of where the existing roof detail would require modification. Overall, insulating externally would be far more complicated and much more expensive.
  3. It is our intent that, when the re-ordering project is complete, the occupancy rate for  the building should greatly increase. The church is currently only used for 4-5 hours per week and the target would be to quadruple its usage. Thus, the heating system is likely to be used for longer periods than at present and the case for greater energy efficiency will increase.
  4. One of the intentions of the re-ordering project is to improve the lighting levels within the church. This will be achieved using LED uplighters and for maximum effect the roof of the nave  and north aisle will need to be painted using a light colour in order to reflect the light. This will radically change the appearance of the roof: any additional change in appearance due to insulation will be marginal and, some would argue, beneficial to both lighting levels and appearance. The above picture gives an impression of what the roof would look like.
  5. The architect has advised us that an impermeable membrane would be installed beneath any insulation. This would avoid the risk of any condensation forming in the void between the insulation and the existing roof timbers. With this in place, he suggests that the existing ventilation through the eaves should be sufficient.
  6. Finally, we feel that any high-level work inside the church should be completed before the new floor is installed. Potentially this will make access easier and cheaper and avoids any risk of damage to either the final floor surface or the heating pipework beneath.

We understand that insulating the nave and north aisle alone is not a complete solution for heat loss from the building. However, the nave and north aisle probably account for 80% of the total roof area of the building and internal insulation of the Chancel and Chapel would not be acceptable due to the design and decoration of the roof space.

Secondary glazing of the windows will be considered at some point in the future separate to this existing project.