Future of Norwich church centre in doubt
Kim BriscoeA drop-in centre in the heart of Norwich is facing an uncertain future after a rise in its rent.The All Saints Centre is now appealing for fundraisers and sponsors to ensure it can continue to offer low cost food and hospitality to people in the city.Kim Briscoe
A drop-in centre in the heart of Norwich is facing an uncertain future after a rise in its rent.
The All Saints Centre is now appealing for fundraisers and sponsors to ensure it can continue to offer low cost food and hospitality to people in the city.
Over the next five years it will see its rent rise by 75pc, but landlord the Norwich Historic Churches Trust says it has been forced into the increase because the huge cost of maintaining its 18 churches is expected to reach �2m over the next 10 years.
The centre in Westlegate has been running for 30 years and costs more than �1,000 each week to open.
It has a coffee bar offering light refreshments, a charity shop, a lending library of Christian books and also sells greetings cards and books.
Reverend Barry Furness, a trustee of the All Saints Centre, said: 'We aim to provide a warm space and a home-from-home so that people who have very little can spend as much time as they want to there.
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'It's a real cross-section of people who come and we even have children coming in from school and doing their homework.
'We just hope we can find the extra money from somewhere. If we were to close then who would look after the people who come here and who we care for?'
The centre has launched a scheme where people can pay �1 for a voucher, which can then be handed out instead of money to people on the streets. The voucher can be exchanged by them for food and drinks at the centre and Rev Furness said he hoped that businesses and individuals would support the scheme.
Pensioner Margaret Wheals, from Thurton, visits the centre two or three times a week on her trips into Norwich to take part in various groups and activities.
She said: 'It's not expensive, it's central and it's a very pleasant place to be.
'It's welcoming and the food and drink is unpretentious but excellent.'
Rory Quinn, chairman of Norwich Historic Churches Trust, said: 'We are under a lot of pressure and have just completed a 10-year plan that English Heritage asked us to do and all the figures in it add up to �2m.
'We have a lot of fundraising to do and obviously our capacity to give concessions to our tenants is somewhat reduced.
'The prime objective of our charity is to upkeep the 18 churches we look after and we are struggling between a rock and hard place. 'We want to support tenants like the All Saints Centre, who are doing a wonderful job.'
He added that the guidance of the Charities Commission recommends charity landlords ask for market rent for their properties.
The centre is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm and Sundays from 12.30pm to 4pm.
The centre's website can be found at www.allsaintsnorwich.org.uk.
t Are you battling to save an historic building? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.