Preston Minster to get temporary annexe as congregation outgrows the church

Preston Minster has been given permission for a temporary building in part of its graveyard to provide extra space as congregation numbers continue to increase.

By Brian Ellis
Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 3:45 pm

The historic church will be allowed to use a portable cabin in its grounds for up to three years as it tries to raise enough cash to build a permanent extension.

But strict conditions will be imposed to protect a huge number of burials at the rear of the church, some thought to date back to the early 1600s.

Planning officers say the cabin must not have foundations and should be placed on concrete pads so no human remains are disturbed.

Grassed area at the rear of the Minster where the temporary cabin will stand.

Permission was granted for the temporary building after an earlier application, asking for a five-year occupation, was withdrawn in October and recently resubmitted.

The extra space is needed, say church leaders, because services at the Grade II* Listed Minster have been attracting larger audiences since "contemporary" services were introduced under the new Vicar of Preston, Rev Sam Haigh, in 2019.

A younger congregation has meant more children at Sunday services and the temporary building is intended for them, as well as offering a venue for community events during the week.

Eventually the church wants to build a permanent replacement, separated from the main building by a cloister. But a massive fund-raising effort will be required to provide it.

Some graves around the Minster could date back to Medieval times.

Historic England has raised no objection to the cabin being built on the south east corner of the graveyard as long as it is strictly temporary and the site is restored to its existing appearance when it is eventually removed.

But in future a permanent extension is almost certain to lead to the disturbance of graves, the earliest of which has a stone dated 1619.

The graveyard closed for burials in 1855 and historians say the site could contain human remains from as far back as the medieval period.

The current church building was completed in the same year as funerals stopped and it could be the fifth to have stood on the same spot, raising the possibility there could also be valuable archaeological evidence which could be disturbed by building work.

"The proposed development, whilst plain and functional, is the first essential step towards a new building for the church that will provide a permanent and architecturally satisfying contribution in the townscape," said a report considered by planning officers.

"The temporary facility will meet the church’s immediate needs and provide a stimulus for fundraising.

"The building will meet the most pressing accommodation needs of the Minster’s worship, but importantly it will mark the first step in the campaign for a new, permanent building on Stoneygate, adjacent to the south door of the Minster.

"This proposal, for which Historic England has given informal support in principle, is currently in design. It will be the subject of separate applications for planning permission, to be made in 2022."