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Planning approval secured for transformation of Grade II listed Rotherham church into ‘apothecary for the magical’

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A planning application to transform a 250-year-old Methodist church in Rotherham town centre into an ‘apothecary for the magical’, which will act as the headquarters for local children’s literacy charity Grimm & Co, has been approved this week by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

The plans, designed by Yorkshire-based architecture practice Halliday Clark, for the £1.5 million redevelopment of the Talbot Lane church, which closed earlier this year due to dwindling congregation numbers, will enable Grimm & Co to expand its services having outgrown its existing space at Doncaster Gate in the town.

The gift shop from Grimm & Co’s current home will be recreated, alongside new facilities including a bookshop and cafe called ‘The Book and Broomstick’. Three new classrooms will be constructed where the charity can expand their interactive story-telling sessions. To protect the unique history of the building, the church’s historic organ and pulpit will be preserved, and some pews retained to form quirky classroom and cafe seating.

The renovations will allow Grimm & Co to increase their earned income and strengthen their financial position, making the charity less reliant on public funds. The much larger space means that more under-resourced children across Yorkshire, Humberside and Derbyshire will benefit from Grimm & Co’s innovative storytelling and writing workshops, which are currently booked up until the end of the year.

Grimm & Co founder Deborah Bullivant comments, “Halliday Clark have provided outstanding levels of support throughout this complex planning application process. We endeavour to be sympathetic to the fabric of the building whilst enabling the practicalities that our charity will need to make this a successful venture. There is a whole team of people and agencies involved in supporting us to do this, all of whom have provided such amazing support throughout. Halliday Clark, in particular, have been swift, agile, creative and responsive throughout the process, listening to all parties to make sure the needs of the building and the charity are served. We’re thrilled to have successfully passed this significant milestone in our adventure.”

Halliday Clark’s plans to sensitively restore the building include initial renovations to remove most of the existing church pews to allow the flexibility of furnishings; subdividing the interior at first floor level; continuing with repairs to the roof and improving the heating and ventilation systems, before creating a brand new ‘world of wonder’.

Richard Walsh, director at Halliday Clark comments, “Talbot Lane Methodist church is a stunning building right in the heart of Rotherham town centre, and it would be a terrible shame if it were to go unused. Grimm & Co are driving a children’s education revolution from Rotherham, so we’re incredibly pleased that we can use our expertise in the renovation of heritage and religious buildings to assist them in taking their business even further and helping more children across the region. There can be difficulties and sensitivities working with listed buildings, but we’ve come up with a design that both respects and modernises the building – which is already magical – and will create an incredible new home for the world of story-telling.”

Halliday Clark are experts in the considered restoration of heritage and religious buildings. The company has worked on the continued development of the Scargill Movement Christian retreat centre in North Yorkshire for 20 years and recently completed the heritage focused £1.4m refurbishment of the Grade II* listed All Saints church in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

Grimm & Co are due to find out on 31 October if they have been awarded a £499,000 grant from the Arts Council to kick-start the renovations. If successful, work is due to commence on site before Christmas 2019 with the new headquarters due to open in July 2020.