The Wye Methodist Church first opened its doors in 1869, and it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2019.
The building is Grade II listed and it stands prominently in the centre of Wye's Conservation Area. Pre-COVID-19 The building was in daily use as both a place of worship and a busy community centre until March 2020. In October 2020 the Methodist trustees decided to cease worship and auction the building.
Although no longer needed for worship purposes the building itself is not redundant. The Parish Council's Wye Revives project aims to bring the facilities back into active use as a thriving community centre in the walkable centre of the village. This facility will complement the Village Hall, and support Wye's clubs, activities and community life, and benefit residents' health and wellbeing.
Wye Revives news and information
For over two years the Parish Council has worked hard to secure the future of the building as a community asset.
In June 2022 Wye Parish Council secured listing for the building as an asset of community value (ACV). This designation recognises its pre-Covid role as a thriving community hub. In February 2023 Wye Parish Council bought the redundant church at auction, and completed the sale 8th March.
Please see the Parish Council's newsletters for progress reports on the Wye Revives project:
Newsletter 81 (print edition) Summer
Newsletter 82 (e-newsletter) Wye Revives
Newsletter 84 (e-newsletter) Wye Remembers
Newsletter 85 (e-newsletter) Wye Level Crossing
Newsletter 87 (e-newsletter) Wye Revives
Newsletter 88 (e-newsletter) Wye Revives Success!
Local aims and perspective
From world-war two until COVID struck, the building supported a very wide range of community activities. The Wye Revives project aims to bring the facilities back into active use as a thriving community centre in the walkable centre of the village. When repaired and renovated this facility will once again support Wye's clubs, activities and community life, and benefit residents' health and wellbeing.
Asset of Community Value
The Parish Council aims to retain the building for community use and benefit. To this end it exercised its right under the Localism Act 2011 to nominate the former Wye Methodist Church building as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). Subsequently, Ashford Borough Council (ABC) rejected this ACV nomination in January 2022.
The Parish Council did not accept ABC's reasons for rejection, and in response renominated the building as an ACV. This time, the Parish Council based its case on a strong legal argument written by barrister who specialises in AVC case law. Further reinforced with supporting evidence in the form of statements from many community groups and residents who used the building. After another long delay ABC accepted the barrister's fundamental point that, in reaching its previous decision it had 'erred in law', and in June 2022 ABC formally listed Wye Methodist Church as an ACV.
Shortly after the listing decision, TMCP notified ABC of their intention to sell the asset. The Parish Council responded and confirmed its intention to buy the building, and this exchange of letters triggered the full moratorium period. Since then the Parish Council continued to develop the Wye Revives project, listen to residents's views and secure funding in preparation for the opportunity to buy the building in 2023.
Although the full moratorium period ended in December 2022, the building remains listed as an ACV. This is a strong material consideration in the event of a planning application for a change of use.
Public consultation 2022
The Parish Council opened the Wye Revives project to a six-week public consultation (see posters below). This process had to pause during the National Mourning for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II before it closed 12th September 2022.
The consultation confirmed the evidence of previous engagements: the public response is overwhelmingly supportive. Accordingly, the Parish Council resolved to go ahead with Wye Revives. The ACV listing process established local need and viability of the project, and the consultation confirmed that there is strong local support for the project. Consequently, the Parish Council is both eligible and able to borrow funds from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) at a favourable rate, fixed for the duration of the loan. Unlike a domestic mortgage, or commercial loan PWLB funding is not secured against the asset, but against the parish precept.
As the consultation made clear, the Parish Council has been careful to budget the loan repayments from within the current parish precept. Therefore the precept will not need to increase in 2023, or in future years. The overriding aim of this cautious approach being to secure all the benefits of the building as a community facility, as soon as possible, but avoid any increase in the precept.