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Sixteenth century York church to undergo radical transformation

An artist's impression of the two new doors planned as part of renovations to St Michael le Belfrey church in York. (Photo: St Michael le Belfrey)

It follows planning permission and listed building consent for external elements of the project being granted by the City of York Council in April, and is the last administrative hurdle to be cleared before work on the £10.5m renovations, in a project known as Impact, can begin.

In the Consistory Court of the Diocese of York, Chancellor - Lyndsey de Mestre KC - made her judgement that faculty approval should be given to St Michael le Belfrey to carry out the work. She described The Belfrey as “...a remarkable church. There are many reasons why this is so, but chief amongst them are its original design, its historical legacy, its location in York and the vibrancy of its community.”

The Chancellor added: “The care and depth of thought with which the Petitioners, the parish and their design team have approached this project over many years is evident in every aspect of the proposals and they have demonstrated an impressive degree of responsiveness and collaboration in the development of the plans.”

Former vicar of St Michael le Belfrey, now Bishop of Bolton, Matthew Porter. (Photo: James Hardisty)

The church, also known simply as The Belfrey, will relocate - along with its congregation - to the nearby De Grey Rooms as work is undertaken until its planned completion date in late 2025.

After a five-year consultation period, the dramatic renovations aim to create a more flexible and accessible space, while also undertaking urgent repairs to the building’s roof, stonework and windows, in order to preserve the church for years to come.

Project manager Gillian Shepherd has previously said: "We are planning a radical and beautiful transformation of this medieval building which is sustainable for the next 100 years, carefully introducing the best of 21st Century architecture and technology, while preserving our 16th Century church."

“This is the most exciting news,” exclaims Andy Baker, Associate Vicar and Chair of Impact. Andy goes on to explain: “The Impact Project will create a freer, lighter and more accessible space. This not only nurtures our Belfrey congregation but allows us to share our building and facilities with others. We will have tremendous scope to increase the numbers who come to worship and visit, to host events and courses like Alpha and develop our leadership programme, as a Resource church for the Diocese of York.”

Currently welcoming 35,000 visitors a year, The Belfrey hopes to double that number upon completion of the work.

The design will create two new doorways and level access throughout the church, a contemporary gallery, an accessible full immersion baptism pool and the installation of an air source heat pump to provide underfloor heating.

“I am delighted that The Belfrey can move forward with Impact. It will be a great blessing to the Diocese, to the City, and an opportunity to further enhance relationships with York Minster and the wider community,” says Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York.

Former Vicar of St Michael le Belfrey, and now Bishop of Bolton, Matthew Porter is thrilled. “It is wonderful to see the hard work, prayers and faithfulness of The Belfrey’s members rewarded.”


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