CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after plans to revive a historic Paddington church and build a new heritage centre were approved.
After a 10-year campaign to develop Grade I-listed St Mary Magdalene Church, proposals were waved through on Tuesday at Westminster Council planning meeting.
A three-storey building is to be constructed, connected to the church, near Paddington Green. It will include an education room, a café and other community facilities.
Many feel that the centre will bring a new lease of life to the area, as well as making the nearby canal-side feel safer. The project will also help to generate funds for the continued maintenance of the historic church.
As part of the consultation, one supporter of the application said: “This is a much-needed facility for the local community, which as you very well know is very diverse and deprived. I think the centre will bring opportunities for young and old alike in the area and it will also save our beautiful church.”
The scheme also involves repairs and refurbishment of the church in Rowington Close.
New facilities, including toilets, running water and an accessible entrance to the building, will be built and the artworks on the ceiling will be cleaned. The new space, designed by Dow Jones Architects, will be used for heritage talks and English lessons, as well as being available to rent out as rehearsal space. The move will help to provide funds for the upkeep of the church, which many hope will help secure its future.
Lady Margot Bright, who lives in Westbourne Park Villas, welcomed the project. She said: “Looking ahead, with how much building work there is going to be going on in Paddington, to have a great big multi-purpose community space in the middle, as pressure increases on the space round about, is going to be terrific. Poor old Westbourne. For many years there have been great plans for improvements and they have always been hit by a recession or something going wrong, so it is about time.”
The church, which is currently on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register, is a “treasure house” of Victorian art and decoration, including an intricately painted ceiling by artist Daniel Bell. It was designed by the architect responsible for the Royal Courts of Justice, GE Street, who enlisted leading artists to decorate it.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has been involved in helping restore certain artworks inside the church.
Father Henry Everett said: “The church was built in the late 1860s in order to serve an area of desperate poverty, but the church was built with no expense spared in order to bring beauty into deprived lives. Our ambition is that St Mary Magdalene’s should be able to serve its community once again, as its founders intended, bringing beauty, art, culture and heritage into people’s lives.”He added: “Since 2005 the congregation has been working with Paddington Development Trust, supported by the Diocese of London and Westminster City Council, to find a way to bring new life to this exceptionally important, Grade I-listed building.”
By next July £2.5million needs to be raised to complement the £4.3million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.