The Diocese of Bath and Wells has confirmed that the diocesan offices are to relocate from The Old Deanery on Cathedral Green in Wells to an alternative site on the outskirts of the city.
The decision was made earlier this week by members of the Bishop’s Council, the Trustees of the Diocesan Board of Finance. This group is responsible for the strategic and financial operations of the organisation, which supports the 182 church schools and 560 churches, their clergy, leaders and congregations across Somerset.
The news follows an earlier ‘in-principle’ decision to move, the case for which was subject to further due diligence with thorough analysis of all available options and costings before being brought back for a final decision on Tuesday 19 June 2018.
Announcing the decision Bishop Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath and Wells says, “Our diocesan office and the people who work there support the life and mission of the churches, schools and communities across Somerset, where people are responding to God’s love for them by sharing that story and that love with others. This decision has been taken prayerfully so that we might serve those communities more effectively.”
Nick May, Diocesan Secretary adds, “We first began to look at options for diocesan office accommodation when it became increasingly clear that, despite the rich history of The Old Deanery, its location and the fondness in which we hold it, the building was not functioning effectively as a modern, welcoming office and meeting space, due to lack of investment.
“Action needed to be taken. The Bishop’s Council decision means that we can provide an excellent working environment for staff and enhanced facilities to support the work of our parishes and schools across the diocese, in a building that will serve our diocesan community well into the future.”
Plans for the new 16,000 sq ft, purpose-built offices comprise meeting rooms and a spacious, openly accessible area on the ground floor, with staff work space and offices designed to support activity-based working on the first floor.
Proceeds from the sale of The Old Deanery and The Rib car park will offset costs of the new-build project. This capital project will not be funded by parishes through the Parish Share.
In terms of the sale, the diocese acknowledges there may be some local concerns about potential changes to the exterior of the building. The Old Deanery is a Grade 1 listed building and enjoys the protection that this status offers.
The diocese fully appreciates the building’s historical significance and the fondness in which it is held by many local people, as well as staff who work there, and is committed to ensuring any sale is approached and handled sensitively.