The Palmer, Alcock, Sharp & Tindall Trust (P.A.S.T.)

“That even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away; to cleave to those which shall abide”


The following is taken from the Ashford Borough Council Planning Application website, but here it is set out in what we consider to be a more user friendly and readable format with attachments included in the document as you read (Click on the underlined links in the Appendix to see the files in pdf format)

 PLANNING APPLICATION FORM DETAILING VESTRY CONVERSION - Please read & follow instructions to object to works BY 8TH AUGUST.




1.1 For centuries St Mary's Church has served as the centre for religious,
communal, and cultural life in the Ashford. The PCC have seen a broadening
use of the church at the heart of St Mary's vision and working with Ashford
Borough Council have been pursuing a re-ordering project for the Church in
the heart of Ashford. Submissions have been made to the Diocese Advisory
Committee in preparation for the Faculty Application and this Planning
Application. The DAC's advice has been taken and the Project Team has
now been encouraged to submit the Detailed Applications - see attached
minute of the DAC (Appendix 1). As part of the re-ordering scheme it is
proposed to put a small extension behind the current vestry, and convert the
existing organ blower room to provide toilets. As the church use for
performances increases there is need for rooms where artists can change
and it is proposed to slightly modify the furniture in the vestries so they can
double up as "green rooms" for the performers when they are not used by the
choir and clergy.

1.2 Ashford Council has identified the need for a cultural centre in the heart of the
town where performances can take place by visiting artists as well as visual
art exhibitions. They have identified St Mary's Church as having the potential
to expand and facilitate these activities within the existing church with minor
modifications to the building. The Local Authority and the Church Authorities
have therefore decided to develop St Mary's as a cultural centre in Ashford.
As the town expands, other venues may come forward, but for the
foreseeable future St Mary's can provide a solution to the demand in the
locality with some minor alterations to the fabric of the Church. These
alterations will also help facilitate the renewal and restoration of the Church
and the development of the Church's own work within the community.

1.3 Prior to preparing this Planning Application and the application to the Church
Authorities a series of consultations have taken place both with the Church
and Community. They consultations have been taking place over a two year
period and include two public exhibitions, as well as consultations with
statutory amenity societies. The bodies that have been consulted are:-

- Ashford Council Conservation Department
- English Heritage
- The Society for Preservation of Ancient Buildings
- The Georgian Group
- The Victorian Society
- The Diocese Advisory Committee of Canterbury Diocese.

Whilst some have expressed reservations about some aspects of the
proposals, no-one has objected to the scheme in principle. The Victorian
Society have concerns about the loss of pews and the moving of the pulpit
but they have made no comments on the proposed extension to the organ
blower room. Attached to this report are the consultation letters (Appendix 2).

The Need for The Extension
1.4 Attached to this document is a Statement of the Need from the Church
(Appendix 3) for the whole project as well as a report from Shea Debnam
Associates produced for Ashford Council as part of the business plan
detailing the expected programme for the next two years. Already the Church
is used for a significant number of concerts which the Council help promote
and it is hoped that in the early years of the collaboration there will be at least
five seasons a year of performances (typically up to 3 days) but this could
build up to as much as 15 seasons a year from national and international
artists. The emphasis will probably be on musical activities, but it is hoped to
encourage theatrical performances from small scale touring companies as
well. In addition to these major seasons, there is a clear local demand for
large scale events from groups such local choirs, music groups, schools and
the Ashford Youth Theatre. As well as live literature events for national and
local poets, writers and speakers.
At present, performers do change in the vestries rooms but there are no
toilets and only one small basin, and this is totally unsatisfactory for the level
of activity that the Church is expecting to house now and in the future. A
dedicated theatre would have a series of toilets for artists to use, but given
the historic nature of the Church and the limited activity, the minimum we feel
is acceptable in terms of additional toilet accommodation to serve the vestries
is two toilets.
The studies have shown the need to accommodate up to 12-14 performers
changing. We believe that 2 toilets is therefore a minimal provision which
would be acceptable to visiting companies for the quality of the project they
are trying to attract. The size of existing vestries is only just large enough to
accommodate this many people changing and therefore including the toilets
within the rooms has been discounted.
We believe the adequate provision of toilets is important and inadequate
provision would hamper the development of St Mary's as an attractive venue
for national and international artists.
The proposed scheme would provide these by converting the existing organ
blower room into one WC and extending it in small gap behind it back towards
the north wall of the Chancel to provide the other toilet. The existing organ
blower would be lifted up into the roofspace and a new dormer with louvres
provided to ventilate that space and gain access.
The blower would be mounted at roof level over the toilets and connect into
the existing ducts. It would be accessed via a new oak louvered dormer clad
in lead.

Other Options Considered
1.5 The only other option considered was to include these toilets within the vestry
space but given the need for storage for the existing choir and clergy, these
two rooms are not overly large. The existing choir can be up to a dozen or
more in size and the Vicar can be supported by other clergy and three or four
Servers. Therefore we have concluded there is not sufficient space within
these rooms to accommodate the additional toilets.

Artificial and Historical Significance of the Proposals
1.6 Attached to this document is a copy of the Architectural History Practice's
Statement of Significance for St Mary's Church. This details of the
significance historically and architectural significance of the whole building
has been considered and it identifies the vestries as one of the latest parts of
the building. The vestry was built in 1873 and the architect is unknown.
Originally it would have been a single storey room but it was divided in 1927
to the designs of Philip Richard Day. The blower room itself we think was built
around the same time. The Statement of Significance does identify a fine set
of cupboards in an old doorway which led out into the space where we are
proposing to undertake the extension (though there is no visible doorway on
the outside). These cupboards we feel are of significance and we have
decided to keep and instead put the doorway though the middle fireplace area
out into the organ blower. There is an existing very large nineteenth century
radiator in the fireplace which would need to be moved. We also feel that the
insertion of this radiator has already altered the configuration in this area and
we therefore believe this is the least significant part of the wall to make a new
opening however there may be the remnants of a fireplace behind it which will
be revealed when we open up the area and remove the later cupboards.
1.7 Consultations with the SPAB have suggested that the north wall of the
Chancel is medieval and should be left exposed so it can 'breathe'. There is
an existing lead downpipe in the corner where the extension is proposed and
we will need to modify this down pipe so it comes down onto the new lead flat
roof over the new extension toilet, and then install a new cast iron downpipe
in the corner to meet the existing drain run.


2.1 The area of the proposed extension is of virtually no ecological value, having
been used as a dumping ground with only sparse grass growing in the area.

2.2 The Church does have a colony of bats residing within the main area and we
are undertaking a Bat Survey for this and the Blower Room currently, which
will be available before the end of the planning process.


3.1 It is proposed to face the external wall of the new extension in rag stone to
match the existing building and cover the roof with a shallow sloping lead


4.1 Working in an ancient churchyard, there is always chance of archaeology,
however; with the close proximity to the foundations of the early twentiethcentury
blower room and the nineteenth-century vestries together with the
drain run crossing the area of the proposed extension this small area is likely
to have been disturbed in the past and we are not expecting to find a lot of
archaeology in tack. An early photograph shows graves where the blower
room is now sited but it is assumed these were moved. However to minimise
the risk to any remaining archaeology we are proposing that the extension is
built of a raft foundation. As part of the Faculty consent we are proposing that
there will be an archaeological watching brief over the whole of any works in
the ground or opening up which would cover this area as well.


Photograph of the vestry from 1900 before the blower room was built.

(Actually this is incorrect - the clock face shown dates the picture to pre 1890's)


5.1 The extension is a very small extension to the building and would have no
significant effect on Flood Risk in the immediate areas. There is an existing
combined drainage system in places around most of the church but we are
not sure how the drainage system works in the area of the proposed
extension although we expect the existing downpipe in the corner of the
vestry wall and chancel wall goes to a soakaway. We therefore propose to
install a new drainage system leading up to the existing public foul drain by
running it round the vestry building and up the existing path to the north of the
church. It is felt that with this drain run we would be able to avoid the most
obvious graves and an archaeological watching brief would be undertaken
whilst the drain runs manholes were laid.


The proposed new toilet extension is needed to provide sufficient provision of
toilets in the right location to serve the vestries and green rooms.
We believe the adequate provision of these toilets is important and
inadequate provision would hamper the development of St Mary's as an
attractive venue for national and international artists.
The extension is also very modest and in one of the least visible parts of the
church of the overall scheme for the re-ordering and use of the Church as a
performance venue. This use is in line with the Anglican Church's desire to
facilitate community uses in their churches and it also is in line with English
Heritage's encouragement to make use of church buildings for community
uses and we believe this alteration is a very modest proposal to one of the
least significant parts of the Church's fabric.


(Click on links below)






The re-ordering will offer the opportunity to enhance and increase
activities, providing an upgraded, well-appointed, flexible multi-use and
shared space in the body of the nave, suitable for hosting a wide range
of religious, arts and community programming1.
St Mary's has served as a hub for religious, communal and cultural life in Ashford for
many centuries. The PCC sees the broader use of the church as being at the heart of
St Mary's ministry and mission to the town. As Ashford is now experiencing a period
of growth that will see the town's population double by 2031, St Mary's location at the
centre of the original town is a natural place to develop much needed community and
arts infrastructure for urban Ashford.
A re-ordered St Mary's will fundamentally serve to better reflect and accommodate
contemporary forms of worship and to more effectively support the PCC's towncentre
outreach. The church building in its current configuration and state of repair
cannot sustain any further congregation growth at communion and monthly family
services. It cannot safely and comfortably accommodate larger events such as
school services, Christingle, baptisms and funerals for 300 people or more. This is a
significant hindrance to the PCC's mission and ministry and effects the sustainable
future of the building, to provide streams of income to assist in the conservation and
enhancement of the Church's historic fabric.
A key growth priority is to address the current lack of community space and facilities
for performing and visual arts within the Ashford urban area. Located at the historic
heart of the town, St Mary's can play a key role in this cultural transformation of
Ashford by increasing the longstanding and successful arts use of the church2. The
development of an arts programme at St Mary's has been similarly hampered by
poor lighting, sound, seating, staging and backstage facilities and the overall
flexibility of the space.
There is a high degree of convergence between the planned re-ordering of the
church to meet the needs of local arts and community groups and the delivery of the
PCC's ministry and mission, in terms of rehearsing and presenting their work to
audiences and attenders3. In particular, to be better able to present stage/dias-based
activities including liturgical dance, live music (including lunchtime concerts), poetry
readings, drama and multimedia presentations to larger seated audiences. The reordering
supports the need for flexibility to reconfigure the seating to provide more
intimate settings for reflection, mediation, talks, prayer meetings, forums, retreats and
exhibitions of religious art.
The philosophy of a 'shared space' has been adopted by the PCC and its partners.
Research, consultation and development work with key stakeholders and potential
arts and community users indicated that in the first instance, the future arts
programme would best operate alongside St Mary's use as a place of worship, under
three hiring strands which will be discreet but will seek to be complimentary4. These
1. The Music Programme - a high quality programme developed and delivered
by an independent professional music promoter. This offers the opportunity
for developing a reputation for a new showing space in Ashford and Kent,
attracting new audiences, developing niche audiences especially among
young people, and inspiring local performing arts practitioners.
2. The Arts Development Programme - arts activity and artist commissions that
involves audience in new experiences and inspires locally-based artists to try
new approaches to their work and exhibit in St Mary's. This programme will
be led by The Arts and Arts Development Sub Committee5 and will support
the need to celebrate the space, the town, its history and its aspirations.
3. The Community Programme - offering local artists, arts groups and
community organisations a well-equipped space for knowledge sharing,
demonstrations, meetings, training, rehearsal, presentation and performance,
that provides a focus for the local community to show and celebrate its
This approach provides a robust mechanism for the PCC to make available St
Mary's and pro-actively develop with a range of partners and communities the
use of St Mary's as a quality space for spiritual, artistic and social activity.
Summary of Re-ordering
Below is a summary of the reordering proposed and the reasons for the works, within
the context of the needs described above:
* To provide a flexible auditorium space in the nave of the church, with improved
sightlines, increased seating capacity and with the capability of being
reconfigured to host small and large-scale events.
* To meet the needs of both contemporary church services and professional
performances by improving the dias and staging facilities, including provision of
suitable, high quality lighting, sound and projection systems.
* To provide a suitable space for arrival and circulation of audiences and the
church congregation through reconfiguring the present foyer.
* To provide toilet, kitchen and bar facilities proportionate with the new capacity
and functions of the venue, and with the expectations of paying audiences.
* To provide 'backstage' washing and dressing room facilities suitable for
professional performers and clergy alike.
* To provide new flexible office and meeting room spaces.
* To upgrade the present heating and lighting systems creating a comfortable and
quality showing space.
This project clearly delivers the key partners, that is the PCC, Ashford Borough
Council, Ashford's Future, vision and objectives to raise the profile of Ashford and
sustain growing needs of the community.

1 Appendix C, St Mary's Business Planning Research, sets out an initial Needs Analysis developed in
consultation with current and potential user groups and identifies the current technical, capacity and
resource requirements (Shea Debnam Associates, January 2009).
2 Appendix B, St Mary's Business Planning Research, provides a review of arts activities that would be
potentially hosted at St Mary's (Shea Debnam Associates, January 2009).
3 Appendix J, St Mary's Business Planning Research, provides information on the operational models
deployed by four comparable Church venues that each share space between religious services, the arts
and community programmes (Shea Debnam Associates, January 2009).
4 The report First Two Years of Programming explains in more detail the content of the arts programme
under the three hiring strands (Shea Debnam Associates, May 2009).
5 The Arts and Arts Development Sub Committee is defined in a draft Terms of Reference that explores
its form, functions, composition, selection and management issues (Shea Debnam Associates, May


Plans for the first two years of Concerts after reordering

Further plans for the first two years of Concerts after reordering

List of performers who would use the reordered building for concerts

An outrage at the Parish Church.

On Saturday 4th June 2005, a "wedding" took place at St Mary-the-Virgin, Ashford.  Never before in the history of that building has such an irreverent, trite, trivial and mawkish noise rocked its walls.  Outside, drum beats hammered from the once holy and reverent walls.  God was irreverenced:  this must never happen again.  It appears that those involved with the wedding actually hail from a non-conformist Church.  That organisation does a lot of good for the local community  - very much that which the PCC at the Parish Church should do.  But the style of supposed 'worship' which took place in the walls of the Parish Church last Saturday is  not what should occur in the Church of England.  Our incomparable Book of Common Prayer (1662),  the only true book of instruction and worship in the Church of England, standing the test of nearly 350 years (and much despised by the majority of modern 'clergy') instructs that marriage is "not by any to be enterprised or taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding, but reverently discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God".  There didn't appear to be any consideration of those facts by the  Bishop of Maidstone, who allowed -indeed welcomed - this wedding.  Nor were the bellringers happy at the late start and length of the wedding, thus meaning that they wasted an hour waiting in the tower to ring the bells.

I for my part was kicked off the PCC at the recent Annual Meeting of the Church because I won't toe the modernising line.  This gives me more chance to use my time profitably to further the cause of 'The Traditional Church of England in Ashford', which is a pressure group fighting for the restoration of tradition particularly in the Parish Church, and against the ideas of the modernisers who want to rip out the pews and destroy the beautiful interior,  dumbing the building down to their puerile level.  All those interested in joining the fight against this should read the Aims & Objectives.

No doubt my letter will elicit abusive responses from the modernisers within the congregation of the Parish Church (one of whom threatened to smack me in the face for expressing my opinions last Saturday).  But these modernisers have been mismanaging the affairs of your Parish Church for years (usually blaming the previous Vicar, who, in fact, worked very hard) - and when it runs out of money and has to close (which will happen unless the Bishops decide to keep it open and subsidise it with monies raised by other churches; not an unlikely prospect) you, dear townspeople, will know who to blame. 

Christopher J. Cooper