AFTER nearly a decade of hard work and raising more than £380,000 a Newport church is celebrating as renovation work is to begin.

The Church of Saint Mary in Malpas has been raising funds for nine years to modernise the building.

Worshippers had a near miss last year when Chancellor George Osborne almost scuppered their plans when he announced the Government was set to axe tax relief on listed buildings, which would have cost St Mary’s a further £50,000.

Thankfully for the church, the Chancellor performed a U-turn on the policy for projects where planning permission had already been granted – meaning St Mary’s was still exempt.

At a ceremony last week (January 2) the Bishop of Monmouth, the Rev Dominic Walker and the Mayor of Newport, councillor John Guy, “cut the sod” to signal the start of what the church hopes will be just nine months’ work. Work will include adding toilets and baby changing facilities as well as the more ambitious project to create a new annexe which can be used by the whole community. The vicar at St Mary’s, Rev David Parfitt, said it was great news for the whole church community.

Rev Parfitt said: “The congregation have been amazing both in their patience and their fundraising.

“They’ve raised almost £200,000 on their own. We have also been fortunate to secure a number of grants including £50,000 from the National Churches Trust.

“It’s been a bit of an adventure to say the least, but it is very exciting now and hopefully will secure the church’s future. Let’s just say we’ve had some fairly extraordinary prayers answered,” he joked.

Rev Parfitt’s message to the community nowwas to come down and take a look at the project and then come and use the facilities.

Rev Parfitt, said: “We are going to be inviting some of the local schools to come down and see the work as the project takes shape.”

ARGUS COMMENT: Hard work pays off

IT HAS taken almost 10 years and it has certainly not always been easy, but a fundraising scheme for a Newport church has achieved its £380,000 target.

The Church of St Mary in Malpas dates back 160 years and has been in desperate need of renovation and modernisation for some time.

But with work expected to cost around £380,000 there was only one way to pay for it, and that was for the congregation and church to raise the funds themselves.

And to their credit that is exactly what they have done.

Work can now start on the improvements and creation of a new annexe which will open the building up for more community use.

This is great news for all involved, especially given that last year the Chancellor George Osborne’s introduction of a new tax meant the church was facing a £50,000 VAT bill which risked the whole project.

The Chancellor announced he was to add 20 per cent VAT to the cost of approved alterations to listed buildings – the so-called heritage tax. Gladly he back-tracked slightly and said projects which had already been granted planning permission would not be included, meaning St Mary’s was exempt.

Now in just nine short months the much-needed work should be complete and this group of committed fund-raisers will be able to celebrate a fine achievement.