Beleaguered Letchworth church permanently closes over expensive building repairs
PUBLISHED: 12:54 06 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:54 06 October 2020
A church facing expensive repairs has permanently closed its doors, with any hope of raising the necessary funds snuffed out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
St Michael the Archangel on Letchworth’s Broadway was only dedicated in 1967 but the fabric of the building has been beset with problems for years.
Church buildings must be inspected by an architect or chartered building surveyor every five years and the 2019 inspection resulted in St Michael’s closing in December due to safety concerns, with Priest in Charge Father Robert Kozak hopeful the closure was only temporary.
A St Albans diocese parish profile says the building, designed by Laurence King, “was largely experimental in design and use of materials. The 10-sided space is ‘held’ together by six panels of stained glass that used a non-traditional method to fix the glass.
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“Inspections of the building prove inadequate materials were used during construction; for example, the copper roofing is thinner than the copper specified in the original drawings and the building has leaked from the outset.”
Last week, the Diocese of St Albans announced the Parochial Church Council of the Parish of Letchworth has “come to the difficult and sad conclusion they must seek closure of the church”.
A diocese spokesman said Fr Kozak had hoped a way forward could be found, but the prospects of finding the £80,000 needed for investigative works have been diminished by the impact of lockdown on church income.
“With no viable building, the general shortage of resource and the likely very high cost of repairs, the way forward is to look to neighbouring parishes in Letchworth, which would entail some redrawing of parish boundaries,” the spokesman said.
The Bishop of Hertford, the Right Reverend Michael Beasley, said: “I am immensely sad for the community, which has done its utmost to keep hold of worship in their midst. Even more than normal, in these strange and testing times, we cannot avoid the harsh realities that confront us.”
Fr Kozak, who will move to another post, added: “A part of me will remain with this community as they adapt to this new and difficult situation. I hope and pray they will know God’s blessing and protection during this time of change and in the years to come.”
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