A NEW entrance and lift is set to improve access to St Elisabeth’s Church and Centre for Community in a £167,000 makeover.
Over the past seven years the building, located next to the old church, has been gradually refurbished by the church with the help of the congregation and community working party.
It is a popular venue for community meetings and events, as well as housing the parish church, and these improvements will increase its potential for use by groups and organisations.
The work to create the new entrance and install the lift has now started.
The new entrance will be on the side of the building and will provide step-free access to the main floor where the building’s hall is located.
The lift will give access to community rooms and new mini conference suite located on the building’s two upper floors.
Currently, people visiting the hall and the building’s two upper floors have to use steep 1930s Art Deco staircases to reach them from the foyer.
There is another entrance to the hall, but it is an unattractive, draughty fire exit.
The work will also involve the creation of a new warm, welcoming foyer space in the entrance, where the lift will be located.
It is expected the project will be complete by Christmas 2011.
Funding for the work is coming from several sources, including Garfield Weston Trust, Rank Trust, Laing Family Trust, church members, fundraising events, Everyclick, Dell Computers and other donors.
The Veolia Environmental Trust has also awarded a grant of £48,300 through the Landfill Communities Fund.
Assistance with applying for funds was provided by Maureen Anstey of Eastbourne Association of Voluntary Services, now 3VA.
The church’s main floor, where the hall is located, is the base for many of the existing events and meetings held at the church which include charitable and self help groups.
Due to a slope running down alongside the building, it is below the building’s entrance.
It was refurbished in 2004 and is used for church services, a lively TOTS group, a lunch club, the local Gilbert & Sullivan Society and a ‘12 step’ self-help group, as well as many more church events for people aged 0 to 90+.
It is also used as a venue for one-off charity fundraising events, exhibitions, and entertainments.
The church office, toilets for disabled users and the HQ for the PARCHE charity for older people are also located on the main floor. The fire exit is the only entrance for weddings and funerals that are held in the main hall.
The steep staircases serving the main floor and two upper floors limit access, creating an unacceptable situation that has meant the church has had to turn away several organisations, hampering its development of further local community services.
When planning the scheme, the church consulted the local community about improvements to access and the results of this work informed the final plans.
Reverend David Gillard, the church’s vicar, said, “The new entrance and lift will benefit a wide range of people, including those with disabilities, elder people and people with young children.
“It will also mean we can realise the potential of the building as almost everyone will be able to attend events, meetings and seminars.”