The Silver Street site has had many different incarnations over the years, from a canning factory in Victorian times to a car repair garage until 2016. The site lies behind the building of Colwall Community Church on Walwyn Road and is surrounded by residential properties and the village doctor’s surgery. Colwall Community Church were given the opportunity to the purchase the site in 2017 when the owners of the garage retired. It seemed a God given opportunity to save this site in the heart of the village for the use of the community and the church, as the obvious alternative was that it would be sold for housing. So after a mammoth and miraculous effort on the part of the church community, supported by members of the wider village community, the church raised the money to purchase the site.
When we purchased the site, we knew that saving it for the community and the church was the right thing to do, but we also knew that was only step one in a long journey to make full use of the site. A steering group was formed to, well, steer the vision. We knew that raising the money for a new building on the site was going to be medium-term venture. We also had to work out exactly how to develop the site to meet the differing needs of playgroup provision, youth provision, space for small groups to meet, the ability to provide refreshments, toilets, a friendly reception space, maybe a small garden space for people to find peace in, etc. All whilst staying within the constraints of the site area, planning recommendations, a realistic budget and seeking, as best we can, to be good neighbours – no easy task!
Knowing that all this planning was going to take time to work through, we wanted to make best use of the site in the interim. So we set up an office for the church in one end of the building and gave the rest of the building over, at no charge, to People in Motion, a charity that supports refugees. They use it as a collecting and sorting space for clothes and toiletries for the vulnerable in the refugee community.
Alongside all of this, the church’s youth project has grown hugely in the last twelve months to the point where it now has four paid members of staff and four volunteers and over 80 young people. It desperately needs more space to work with local young people in the groups, one-to-one sessions and mentoring the project offers. CYP (Colwall Youth Project) is primarily supported by the church and since 2020 primarily funded by Children in Need. As the profile of the project has increased, other funders, not least the National Lottery, have become involved. This means that a second possible intermediate use for the site is placement of a temporary modular building on the gravelled parking area to provide much needed accommodation for the youth. Although initiated and primarily supported by the church, CYP is a non-religious, non-judgemental, totally inclusive youth in the lead project.
The vision and final plan for the site will continue to evolve as the steering group works with CYP, the community, the church and experienced architects, seeking to create a space on the site which we hope will bless the village for years to come!