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St. Thomas’ Church in Lancaster has gone out to tender for a major ‘Heart of the City’ building project to house a new Family Life Centre supporting those in need in Lancaster and the surrounding area.

St. Thomas is in the city centre of Lancaster. With a vibrant and energetic congregation of nearly 600 adults and children, across three services, it is a large, family-friendly church.

Lancaster City Council gave planning permission for the ‘Heart of the City’ project to go ahead in the summer of 2019.

  • For more on that see this story and the Diocesan website will continue to be updated with further news as it happens in relation to this project. You can also visit the St Thomas website for further information; more detailed plans and even a video of the proposed project. 

The estimated cost of the building works is £2.6m and so far the congregation has already donated over £1.5m. This is expected to reach £1.9m by the end of the year.

They have also been actively raising funds in the community through a variety of events and activities, including most recently a pop-up café, a Burn’s Night Ceilidh, and a Christmas concert from Lancaster City Brass. Community fundraising events to date have raised over £28,000.

The final element of fundraising has come from grants and these now total £151,000. The church has been overwhelmed by the generosity of their donors who have included:

  • The Countess Dowager Eleanor Peel Trust, who have agreed to fund £10,000. This trust was founded in 1951 with the primary aim of supporting UK registered charities involved in the fields of medicine including medical research, the elderly, and those “who have fallen on evil days through no fault of their own”.
  • Garfield Weston Foundation, who have donated £30,000. Established in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded charitable grant-making trust which now gives away approximately £80 million a year to charities across the UK.
  • Lancashire Environmental Fund, who have committed £30,000 towards the project. This Fund has distributed over £25m of Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) grants support to community and environmental projects which benefit the environment and people of Lancashire since its start in 1998.

The plan for St. Thomas’ new centre is to offer a much greater level of support to the community in Lancaster, and its vulnerable members, in an environmentally friendly, modern, multi-use building. For example, the church plans to offer a listening/counselling service for people struggling with isolation, depression and anxiety.

It will offer a Christians Against Poverty life course, teaching money management and cooking skills, as well as other valuable services. These will build on pastoral care services that St. Thomas already offers, such as support for the elderly and those with dementia, as well as many different activities already on offer for children and young people.  The plans for the roof space in the building have been changed in order specifically to meet the needs of the youth groups, giving them their own space in which to meet.

The church has recently appointed a detailed design team, from within the congregation, who are starting to consider detailed decisions about the new building, such as the kitchen design, easy access and lighting.

One key feature of the new building is a Changing Places toilet. This will be designed so that it is completely accessible for people who are unable to use toilet facilities independently and will include a shower facility. This will be only the second such facility in Lancaster City Centre.

The church is also working with Morecambe based MORE Renewables, a community energy provider, who are looking to provide two large arrays of solar panels on the south facing roof slopes of the building in order to maximise the renewable element of any electricity used within the building.

Jon Scamman, vicar of St. Thomas Church Lancaster, said “We are so grateful to all our donors for their generous grants and gifts. Without these, we would not be able to go out to tender. We have reached an exciting stage of the project and hope to receive competitive tenders soon, from building contractors who share our vision and understand our values.”

Michael Parkinson, as a Trustee of the Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust and responsible for monitoring charitable activity in Lancaster and District, said “ The Trust is very pleased to support this capital project which will be of benefit to the community at large and in particular the elderly and those with dementia which this trust seeks to assist, amongst others.”

Andy Rowett of Lancashire Environmental Fund, said “This is just another great project that the Fund is thrilled to support and would applaud the ambition and vision of St Thomas’s Church in developing the new facility.”

St. Thomas Church’s fundraising still continues and anyone interested in donating, or finding out about forthcoming events, can find more information on the website here or via the Heart of the City Facebook page or Twitter account

A summary of those activities the trustees seek to support includes:

  • Charities operating in support of the elderly.
  • Charities assisting people who have fallen on evil days through no fault of their own.
  • Medical Charities including those involved in medical research.
  • General grants to disaster/emergency appeals.

About Garfield Weston Foundation

Established in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded charitable grant-making trust which now gives away approximately £80 million a year to charities across the UK. Having established one of the most respected charitable institutions in the UK, the Weston Family Trustees today remain highly active and hands-on. The Foundation’s funding comes from an endowment of shares in the family business – a successful model that still endures today and as the businesses have grown so too have the charitable donations.

Each year the Foundation gives away its income and donations have continued to grow. Since it was established it has donated over £1 billion, of which over half has been given away in the past ten years alone. In the most recent financial year the Foundation gave away over £79 million to over 2,100 charities across the UK.

About Lancashire Environmental Fund

The Lancashire Environmental Fund (LEF) is a partnership between SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK Ltd, Lancashire County Council, The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside and Community Futures. 

The Fund has distributed over £25m of Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) grants support to community and environmental projects which benefit the environment and people of Lancashire since its start in 1998.  The Fund is supported financially by SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK Ltd, Lancashire County Council and various third-party funders.

The Landfill Communities Fund is regulated by ENTRUST.  For more information about LCF visit www.entrust.org.uk. The Fund celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018.