Published: 09:33, 20 May 2022
| Updated: 09:34, 20 May 2022
Villages have said yes to its parish council taking out a public works loan to purchase a disused church for use as a community centre.
At a public meeting in Headcorn village hall on Wednesday night, May 18 98% voted in favour of authorising the parish to apply for the loan.
The question asked was: "Should Headcorn Parish Council borrow up to £250,000 from the Public Works Loan Board to enable the Heart of Headcorn CIO to buy the former Methodist Church for the benefit of Headcorn community."
Tim Thomas, the chairman of trustees of Heart of Headcorn announced the results: "Those in favour 146, those against three."
The vote was taken by secret ballot after a question and answer session that lasted around 45 minutes.
The parish council now expects to have the money within a couple of weeks which will enable the Heart of Headcorn group to bid to buy the property from the Methodist Church trustees.
Taking out the loan will not mean that the parish has to increase its precept. It had already had an element built into its yearly budget to set aside for a community hall, and that contribution will now be switched to pay back the Public Works loan.
The church in the High Street was built in 1867 but has not been used for worship since 2021 after the Methodists closed the building due to the falling numbers in the congregation.
Heart of Headcorn is a community group set up specifically to buy the church, which it hopes to use for a number of purposes - as a village museum, as a centre for further learning, and as a mindfulness refuge.
The group has also been doing its own fundraising, holding events such as a Headcorn Silly Walk, and a village history pageant, which together with donations have so far raised around £21,000.
However, the vote does not give the village any certainty that they will succeed in buying the building.
The church trustees insist it is a condition of their charity status that they accept the best offer and a rival group has emerged that is interested in the building.
The Mar Thoma Church is a Christian organisation founded in Kerala in India.
It has a growing number of worshippers in England and is looking to buy the Headcorn Methodist Church as a base for its followers in Kent and currently shares St Andrew's Church in Maidstone with the Anglican community there.
Bella Mansfield, one of the Heart of Headcorn organisers, said: "It's far too early to be doing a victory roll. There's a long way to go yet and no guarantee that we will be successful."
The Methodist Church Trustees have been approached for comment.