Our Development Director Tim Thorlby blogs on the first meeting of London’s newest Forum – the London Churches Property Forum – which the Contextual Theology Centre helped to set up. The Forum will help churches to network and share good practice about (and maybe begin to co-ordinate) how they manage their properties…
In May, in a packed room, a brand new Forum was established, organised by the Contextual Theology Centre and its partners. The London Churches Property Forum brings together the key property decision-makers from nearly every major Christian denomination in London, as well as a number of Christian Housing Associations and other Christian charities with an interest in property. The Forum provides an opportunity to share good practice and co-ordinate decision-making and even – eventually – investment.
It may not sound glamorous, but the consensus in the room was this Forum was a timely and important step forward. This is the first time that churches in London have come together to share information on, and discuss, how they manage their properties.
Property represents a significant cost, but also a major opportunity, for many churches and denominations the challenges and opportunities abound – whether it is redeveloping a church site, building affordable housing or raising income from the better management of space.
At the inaugural meeting, participants discussed presentations from two very different projects.
In the first presentation, the Diocese of London explained the Joint Venture it has established with Blueland Group and an Investor to fund the development of GP Surgeries on appropriate church sites in London. The project has raised £50m of private finance to invest in 10 church sites in the Diocese, providing primary health care facilities for the NHS, and in turn providing financial and other benefits to those churches. There is scope to raise new finance and expand the project.
In the second presentation, Paul Regan, the Chair of the East London Community Land Trust explained the concept of a Community Land Trust and described recent progress in establishing the first such Trust in east London. He explained the reasons why churches might be interested in using appropriate land for such Trusts, and the kinds of benefits.
Both topics were discussed in depth at the Forum and illustrate the potential for pooling knowledge and ideas, learning about new opportunities and building relationships.
The Forum was brought together by the Contextual Theology Centre, Housing Justice and the East London Community Land Trust. The Forum will gather three times per year and Housing Justice has kindly agreed to provide the secretariat for running the Forum. The next meeting will be in September 2014. If you are interested in joining the Forum, please get in touch with our colleagues at Housing Justice for more information.