For almost 60 years, the Church of the Holy Family in Blackbird Leys, Oxford, has been a place of welcome, service, building community, learning and prayer. In an area where around 34% of local children live below the poverty line and unemployment is four times higher than the rest of the city, they have made both their church and community facilities available for use. This includes a drug rehabilitation group and mediation services that help users in working through conflict. However, in 2018, it was found that the roof of the church was rotten and a danger. A replacement would cost well over £1.5m – and still last little more than two decades before needing replacement once more. As a result, the building was condemned.
In order to allow the Church to continue as a local social and spiritual epicentre, it is currently being redeveloped. A not-for-profit project, the proposed changes would not only allow the Church to continue in its capacity in providing pivotal support to the community, but also introduce 22 new apartments and a new vicarage. This will include a flexible space for drug outreach, incubator space for young local entrepreneurs (managed by Aspire), a community hall and crèche, space for Girl Guides and a community cafe. This is very much a project being built by the local community, for the local community; those working on the project are working on a pro-bono basis.
In a world where the real estate industry is a key source of assets, valued at $228 trillion at the end of 2016, these small-scale, community-managed projects continue to make innumerable changes to individuals’ lives. That’s why Give My View takes such pride in giving communities a say in the changes being made in their local area, giving the built environment a human face. Through this much-needed regeneration, the support that the community of Blackbird Leys will gain will surely prove invaluable.