EGLINTON Church of Ireland parish’s plan to redevelop its parish hall, destroyed by flooding two years ago, is in jeopardy following an assessment by a government department.
St Canice’s Parish Church Faughanvale and its nearby hall were among the many buildings damaged after local rivers burst their banks following heavy rainfall in August 2017.
The Church was reopened in June last year, after being closed for almost a year for repairs.
The Select Vestry were planning to sell a 4.5-acre field to help pay for the development of the hall.
Last month, however, Department for Infrastructure officials informed Church representatives that the field was to be designated as flood plain – reducing its value dramatically.
The Rector of St Canice’s, Rev Canon Paul Hoey, told his parishioners at a meeting on September 4 that the Department’s decision was a “tremendous blow” to their financial plan.
Canon Hoey said two acres of the field had been deemed suitable for residential development and the Select Vestry had been hoping to sell it for housing for Eglinton’s growing population.
He said: “The Department’s decision has the effect of reducing the value from the sale from potentially over £650,000 to whatever the agricultural rate is.”
“The population of Eglinton was predicted to rise considerably in the next few years, adding considerably to the pressure on the village’s few community amenities
“As the only one of the local churches with a building in the village, we are ideally placed to reach out in mission to the local community.
“We see a state-of-the-art Parish Centre as critical to our vision to extend God’s kingdom further in the village of Eglinton.”
The Rector said the parish is unlikely to appeal the DfI’s decision. He added: “We’ve been told that any appeal would be costly and likely to fail. We also want to be good neighbours.
“We don’t wish to delay flood protection measures being provided to protect local homes in the village.”
Eglinton was among the communities worst affected by the August 2017 floods.
At the time the Select Vestry agreed its priorities were, in order, to support the 20 percent of parish households directly affected by the flooding; to repair St Canice’s Church; and then to decide what to do about the Parish Hall, which has been unusable for over two years.
Canon Hoey said the next few weeks would be a time for ‘reflection, prayer, and discussion’ while parishioners consider, prayerfully, what to do next.
Continued in the Northern Constitution newspaper.