Clemency plea for church

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Historic Places Mid Canterbury is taking up the cudgels to save the Ashburton Methodist Church, and the nearby county council building.
The church is one of Ashburton’s grandest – but will be demolished if the Ashburton council accepts a consultant’s recommendation that it is the best site for council’s administration and library project.
‘‘People who tick the box for Opus’s preferred new civic centre site are signing the death sentence for Ashburton’s historic Methodist Church, Mrs Luxton said.
‘‘We recommend anyone who values the presence of this important heritage building in our town refrain from voting for the preferred option. We have lost so much of our built heritage already and we believe the council should be exercising real leadership in terms of heritage preservation rather than proposing that this building be demolished to make way for their own office upgrade.’’
She said Historic Places Mid Canterbury discussed what future the building might have before engaging both the church and the community.
Mrs Luxton said the church was unique in that, unlike many of its contemporaries elsewhere, it had a light, airy feel inside and would adapt for many alternative uses, including a small arts venue for recitals, choirs, small instrumental and dramatic performances, as well as a versatile meeting, conference or breakout venue.
She said the group speculated whether, as a fully restored building, it could adjoin the council’s proposed complex and become a valuable part of it.
The building has earthquake damage and has been closed since the Canterbury earthquakes.
Mrs Luxton said the church was a significant landmark and one of precious few remaining heritage brick buildings.
It has overlooked Baring Square since the 1920s. It needs work to meet earthquake regulation requirements and its future has been on hold as the church board considers a way forward.
Mrs Luxton said it was time to ask the Ashburton community: how much do you really value your town’s heritage?
‘‘We realise not everything can be saved, but when we have a building that is central to the town’s heart and such an established and attractive part of the local heritage landscape, we believe all options should be explored.’’
She said the church also had a very good pipe organ and some of the best acoustics in Ashburton and could become a real asset and complement the Ashburton Trust Event Centre.
The group wants community feedback and welcomes feedback through its Facebook page or the media.
Opus, for the council, considered a range of sites, and narrowed them to four with six options.
The Methodist/county site was listed as the preferred option.
Mrs Luxton said the group also wanted to preserve the nearby county building, now used by council as a temporary chamber. Opus is seeking feedback through a 20-page document sent out several weeks ago with this paper or through links at www.YourVoiceAshburton.com