An ambitious vision to help a Forfar kirk tackle the social problems on its doorstep has won backing from council planners.
As well as offering religious services, Lowson Memorial Church tackles hunger, loneliness and wellbeing in communities directly surrounding its base in the east end of the town.
Its bid for to transform and extend its existing church hall into a £1 million community hub has been passed by officials provided it is properly sound proofed and the design is in keeping with the historical main building.
Church leaders hope the hub will house its children’s holiday breakfast club every day of the week.
It will also form a base for the kirk’s range of other social projects, including a food bank and social clubs for groups such as mothers and toddlers and pensioners.
Around £70,000 has already been set aside, with further fundraising and grant applications ongoing.
Rev Dr Karen Fenwick said: “Discussions with those living in our wider community have highlighted the need to increase our provision, not just in what we do already, but there is also a need for regular meeting space and more family friendly facilities.”
The “contemporary” extension on the eastern side of the existing church and hall will provide additional facilities, including a new hall, kitchen and serving area, toilets, office, vestry, meeting rooms and new foyer space for the main church building.
The council received two objections, one suggesting the design would be an “eyesore”. Objectors also raised concerns about noise and extra traffic.
Dr Fenwick said the project is embedded in the needs of its surrounding community.
“Child poverty levels in the area have risen over recent years, and are predicted to remain above levels in similar comparable communities across Scotland. We have therefore tried to help in whatever way we can.
“We have been running an extensive food project for three years that covers homes across the whole of Forfar and just beyond. As this is fresh food, it must be given out as quickly as possible, so we make up food parcels and take it right to the door to ensure there is no wastage.
“Around a third of households in the area are made up of those living alone with half of those aged over 65. Loneliness is a growing problem so we tackle it with our weekly lunch club, which is attended regularly by around 80 people and is often more about the socialising than the food.
“When the buildings were built just over 100 years ago, they did not have 2018 in mind.”