Preston church 'priced out' of relocating to suburbs by house builders' land grab

A city church claims it is being priced out of relocating to the suburbs of Preston due to a frantic land grab by house builders.

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 3:45 pm

St David's in Plungington may now be forced to abandon its plan for a new church and community building in Cottam because it can't afford to compete with developers.

Vicar Rev Tom de Lacey says even the smallest plots of land are selling for inflated prices due to an unprecedented building boom in the north of the city.

The church wanted to bid on a site of only one third of an acre near to Cottam Primary School. But despite a valuation of £46,000, the land sold for £173,000 - almost four times the price.

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St David's Church and community hall in Eldon Street are both due to be demolished.

"That pushed us out of the market altogether," said Rev de Lacey. "So now we've been forced to shelve the idea for the time being because we just can't afford that sort of money."

Plans to demolish the 110-year-old St David's Community Church and its adjacent community hall in Eldon Street go before the city council's planning committee on Thursday.

The church has agreed to sell the site to the Progress Housing Association which wants to build a supported living development for people with learning difficulties.

St David's looks set to go back to its roots - sharing with Emmanuel Church in Plungington - until its future can be resolved.

Supported living accommodation will be built on the Eldon Street site (Image: Studio John Bridge).

The Emmanuel congregation has been worshipping in the next door community centre since its church was condemned as dangerous due to dry rot.

A £1m scheme to repair the building - Sir Tom Finney's favourite church - was recently given planning permission by the council and was due to get underway soon.

But the Post understands the Zimbabwean-based developer behind the project has now backed out, leaving Emmanuel with the job of raising the funding itself.

Initial talks have taken place with St David's to see if the two could merge in a bid to save the building.

Rev Tom de Lacey says the church has been priced out of bidding for land by house builders.

"It's only at the discussion stage and I'm not saying it is going ahead," said Rev de Lacey.

"St David's was originally part of Emmanuel until 1911 when a group of about 300 worshippers broke away to form their own church. So it would mean the two would reunite after 110 years apart."

St David's was prepared to spend £250,000 on building new premises in Cottam, on top of the cash needed to buy a plot of land. But now it seems the dream will not be within budget.

"Our aim in moving to Cottam was to bring something to that area which it doesn't have," said Rev de Lacey. "We wanted to provide a community centre which would be a focal point for that area with things like a cafe and facilities for young people. People tell us there is absolutely nothing for teenagers there.

"There are huge numbers of homes going up and the council has been under pressure to do something about the lack of infrastructure up there like schools, doctors and dentists.

"All we were looking for was one third of an acre. That was all we needed, yet we can't afford the prices being asked for even something as small as that.

"We have looked everywhere in that area and we have asked the council if they have any spare land up there which we could even lease or rent.

"It looks like the planning application to demolish our old church will be passed this week and, understandably, Progress Housing are keen to get a move on after that. So things could happen pretty quickly."