The Secret Coffeehouse at Wilmington Community Church – March 2021

Church Growth Trust were contacted by Wilmington Community Church, as Trustees of their property, in order to offer advice and assistance on the plans of the church to convert one of their buildings on the site into a Coffeehouse.

The building in question is currently a Mission Hall being used as a multi-functional ancillary meeting space for the church. The location of the Mission Hall building is towards the rear of the church site, and there is a Public Footpath that runs alongside the whole plot connecting the streets Broad Lane and Common Lane at either end of the footpath. Given this location the existing Mission Hall gets a lot of passing foot traffic right past its front entrance.

The church have established a group who have carried out a body of research and have come to the conclusion that the area could really benefit from having a local amenity such as a Coffeehouse as this provision doesn’t currently exist within the village and residents have to travel further afield to the nearby villages or to Dartford centre to go to a Coffeehouse. A detailed business plan has been prepared by the church which has established their requirements and parameters for setting up the facility, along with an outline budget.

The church felt that having this type of amenity on their premises could really serve to broaden their community outreach. Given that there are schools nearby it is often the case that parents park in the church car park to pick up their children who walk along the Public Footpath to meet them. This facility will give a natural meeting place for these parents and children as well as for residents of the village generally. The current name for the proposed facility posited by the church is ‘The Secret Coffeehouse’, given its location tucked away off the footpath, although the building is well known to local residents given its multi-purpose use to date for a wide variety of community activities.

Additional to being used as a public Coffeehouse for 5 hours a day and 5 days per week the church have noted that “ The Secret Coffeehouse will continue to be used by the church as an outreach centre. We plan to run weekly meals for the elderly, a drop-in and homework space for students from the secondary schools, a programme of activities for the community such as art and craft, cookery sessions for young people, a book club, wellbeing discussion groups, home to our Alpha course and the venue for fundraising events. It will be used as a crèche facility on Sundays and church meetings”.

In order to allow the building to be used as a Coffeehouse, a Planning Application for a Change of Use is required, as the existing function of the Mission Hall building is within a different Use Class to that of the proposed function. This planning application will also be used to ratify any ‘physical’ changes in appearance of the building and its surrounding external areas, required for its new function.

Church Growth Trust have currently compiled the required existing and proposed drawings and design statement that will be needed to submit the planning application, based upon information kindly received by the church. The application should be lodged with the Local Planning Authority shortly, and Church Growth Trust will the monitor the application as it progresses through the system seeking to address any queries that may arise from the Planner Case Officers relating to the project, and providing any additional information where needed.