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Tenant sought for church hall
IT has been a church hall for more than a hundred years.
But now, because of a rotting floor which the Cowley St John parish cannot afford to replace at SS Mary and John Church Hall in Cowley Road, Oxford, new tenants are being sought.
The building has planning permission to be used as anything from a medical centre or a creche to a library or a law court.
It has gone on the market to rent with the idea that the new tenants pay to renovate the building – which is likely to cost a six figure sum – and then use the premises at a peppercorn rent until their investment has been offset.
The Rev Adam Romanis said: “It’s an idea that has been around for a long time but it’s the first time we have put a board outside and said we have made up our minds.”
The hall has not been used for church purposes for at least 10 years, when after-service refreshments were moved into the main church.
Charity East Oxford Action moved out three years ago and it has been empty since then.
The Grade II-listed hall dates from 1904 and was designed by Edwardian church architect Sir Ninian Comper.
Mr Romanis said: “It certainly isn’t an easy decision because although the hall doesn’t look very beautiful at the moment, it is a beautiful building.
“It is valuable and it is in a good position, and has served the parish well for over a century.
“It’s significant in all sorts of ways for all sorts of people and it is with a heavy heart we have come to the conclusion it is a building we don’t need any more.”
One of comedian Ronnie Barker’s first performances was held there. Mr Romanis said everything from barn dances to residents’ association meetings now took place within the church itself and the parish simply did not need a separate space for social events, nor could it afford to upgrade the facilities.
Four years ago the parish was investigating the possibility of using the site as a restaurant but the plans fell through.
There is no intention to sell the building at this stage and it is being marketed by Meeson Williams.
Ross Thomson, from the company, said: “This is an important local building and the church council is keen to find a lessee who can undertake the restoration and make it their long-term home.
“The broad proposal is the cost of essential restoration will be offset against the building rental.”
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