ANDOVER Town Council is exploring the possibility of buying a church building so it can be used by the community.

St Andrew's Methodist Church, in Weyhill Road, is home to a pre-school and a variety of social groups.

The Kennet and Test Valley Methodist Circuit, which owns the church, is looking to sell the building, which is no longer used for church services.

The town council is considering using ‘earmarked reserves’ to buy the building and at a meeting on Wednesday, May 1, councillors voted to progress with the proposal.

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Andover Advertiser: St Andrews Methodist Church in AndoverCllr Joseph Hughes spoke in favour of the purchase, highlighting the potential of the church as a valuable community space.

He expressed concern that once the building is sold, the opportunity to acquire it for community use would be lost.

Cllr Hughes said: “The choir I’m part of goes to this church, so, I have looked around the building and it’s a really nice place.

“It’s one of the community buildings in that area, but once it’s sold it’s gone.

“I know a pre-school runs from the church. If it’s sold the pre-school would also be forced out. So, I am all for the town council buying that building.”

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St Michael’s Pre-school operates from the church and has yet to find alternative accommodation – it could be forced to close if the building is bought for other uses.

The church is also periodically used as a polling station – but this could also be lost.

Originally, the council proposed a structural survey of the building which would have cost a maximum of £2,500, but it was deemed that a business plan should be developed before commissioning the survey.

Cllr Heather Neate questioned the wisdom of spending money on a structural survey before a clear plan is established for the building's use.

An investigation into the feasibility of the purchase will be conducted, with a report presented to the council at a special meeting potentially held before the next scheduled full council meeting on Wednesday, May 22.

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There is a possibility of modifying the building's layout to create separate spaces. This would allow the pre-school to remain operational while also providing room for other community groups.

Cllr Luigi Gregori said: “I think it's probably worthwhile investigating if we purchase it, what are we going to do with it. Having restructured [the building] which would cost more money, we should have some idea of what particular uses it has.”

Cllr Hardstaff added: “I absolutely agree with what Cllr Gregori said. But as a counter argument I would say this piece of property is likely to go very quickly on sale. On that basis I would say remove the structural survey from the proposal and we will do it as a last resort [if we purchase the property].”

Following a proposal by Mayor Robin Hughes, the council unanimously agreed to move forward with initial steps to explore the purchase of the St Andrew's Methodist Church.

Council officers will now obtain details about the sale and draft a basic business plan outlining potential uses for the building will be developed.

It will also investigate applying for Section 106 funding from Test Valley Borough Council to help cover the purchase cost if needed.