The developer whose work is now 54% heaven-sent

Thornsett development beside St John at Hackney

Thornsett has gradually become a specialist at helping urban churches unlock their sites, explains Bernadette Cunningham

Most people don’t understand church funding. They seem to think there is a central pot of money when in fact many are self-funded and that’s why you often see campaigns to repair a church roof. Many churches are suffering from the double hit of declining congregations and high and increasing maintenance costs.

Lots of churches and charities have premises that were built by others a long time ago, either Victorian or post-war constructions. These assets can become millstones round the necks of churches, with congregations spending money on repairs and outdated heating systems. Many of the buildings are listed, which increases costs. Local communities can be very passionate about preserving existing buildings but they aren’t necessarily prepared to pay for the upkeep and that can lead to the retention of spaces that are not fit for purpose.

If a hall or space has land around it, you can release the land for building and effectively unlock the value to do something better. I like the quote that “God isn’t creating more land, especially in London”. Churches are often sitting on underused land and my firm Thornsett (and others) are able to ask them what kind of multi-functional buildings they need and then help them realise the vision.

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