Iconic Harrogate location fights to survive with new role

Battle for new role - Members of Harrogate's iconic West Park Church steering group members Graham Strugnell, Jean Strugnell, Jackie Goldthorpe and Brian Goldthorpe. (1810291AM1)
Battle for new role - Members of Harrogate's iconic West Park Church steering group members Graham Strugnell, Jean Strugnell, Jackie Goldthorpe and Brian Goldthorpe. (1810291AM1)

One of the most iconic buildings in Harrogate faces an uncertain future unless it transforms itself.

Standing on a prominent spot on the corner of West Park Stray and Victoria Avenue since 1862, West Park Church may boast a design by Lockwood & Mawson, the architects responsible for the World Heritage village of Saltaire.

But times have changed since it became a URC in 1972 after the Congregational and Presbyterian churches merged.
It now faces the eventual possibility of being merged with St Paul’s URC, which lies further down the same street - unless it finds a new role as a community and charity hub

A key member of the church’s steering group says expanding and upgrading the facilites at the church is not only possible, it’s vital.

Brian Goldthorpe said: “Like many churches it is somewhat underused and we are aware that there is a desperate need within the town for space to be able to be used by charities and many other groups which do so much good work for the community.
“The church is already used by some concert groups and theatre groups for rehearsals etc and in short there is so much that this building can do for town that is not being done at present.”

The church currently has planning permission to convert the back of the building to new meeting rooms and flats, which was granted in 2017.

Brian said: “We have plenty of space and we are in the process of engaging with various stakeholders, namely the council, the homeless charities, local NHS and so on to ascertain what their needs are and how we might be able to meet this needs.”

A sign of how seriously West ParkURC takes its battle for survival can be judged by its study of what happened at a similar church in Winchester in Hampshire where the church is now used by the NHS for ante-natal classes.

But church members hoping to expand on their mission within the community are also keen to get the public’s views on what they should do.
To that end, there will be an open day open to all at the church on Saturday, November 10 from 10.30am to 3.30pm.

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