Fears are growing in a Sheffield village for the future of a church hall that could be sold off for development.
The leaders of Christ Church, in Dore, are weighing up whether to sell their venue on Townhead Road on the grounds that maintenance bills are becoming too costly.
The hall, which has an extension for the parish office, hosts events such as Girl Guide meetings, ballet classes and rehearsals of the village choir. A consultation on the potential sale has taken place and scores of responses will be considered at a meeting of the parochial church council later this month.
But Carl Brittain, who lives in Dore, said opposition was running high. “There’s a lot of upset and anger,” he said.
The hall was built in the 1930s, ‘funded by the community, for the community’, said Mr Brittain. It was then put in trust and bought by the church for a ‘token sum’ of £250 in the 1960s, he added.
“Then suddenly, because it’s a strain on their resources, they want to sell it.”
A value of £650,000 had been put on the site, he claimed. “It looks like a rushed job. There’s an undercurrent of ‘Dore is an affluent area. Cough up and pay for it’. It seems like a land grab by the church for the money.”
A letter signed by vicar Rev Katie Tupling, who chairs the church council, was sent to users of the hall, parishioners and schools outlining three options for the building’s future.
“The status quo is not an option,” said Rev Tupling. “The diocese of Sheffield has been consulted and the possibilities are as follows: sell all of the site for development or community use, retaining the extension; sell all of the site for future community use; sell all of the site for development.”
She said the choices were ‘not easy’ to make. “Christ Church Dore PCC is a charitable organisation and is responsible for ensuring that money given to Christ Church is used responsibly, giving best value to the charity. With this in mind the present thinking of the church leadership is to go for option one and sell part of this site for development or community use.”
Church members were responsible for the administration and upkeep of the hall, Rev Tupling said. ‘Significant’ repairs were needed and the council was not able to support the hall using money meant for ‘Christian mission’ and the church building itself, which is also the focus of a redevelopment plan. The number of people able to give time to fixing the hall and administering its activities was dwindling too, said the vicar.
“Put simply, the PCC and congregations cannot afford to maintain two buildings, let alone improve both,” she said.
Mr Brittain, who is retired but used to operate his own skip hire company, said: “People were completely unaware they could just sell it. The perception is that what the church is doing to the village is not very Christian or charitable.”
Rev Tupling was approached for further comment.