Modern new offices for the Diocese

by Sarah Meyrick

THE diocesan office is moving to new premises next spring. A date is yet to be set, but the intention is that the relocation will take place at Easter 2016.

The new Church House Oxford at Langford Locks, Kidlington. Photo: Simon Williams.

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The over crowded car park at Diocesan Church House in North HInksey. Photo Jo Duckles.

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Dave Mitchell working on the plans for the new building. Photo: Sarah Meyrick

The Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance (ODBF) has bought modern offices in Langford Locks, in Kidlington, near Oxford airport. The new offices will be known as ‘Church House Oxford’. At the same time Diocesan Church House (DCH) – a converted former vicarage in North Hinksey village – is on the market.

The decision to move was taken by the Bishop’s Council in February this year after 18 months of careful deliberation. Simply put, the organisation has outgrown the original building, meaning that staff are working in cramped and unsatisfactory working conditions.

This has come about for a number of reasons. In particular, because of the changed political landscape, the education team has expanded to ensure that the Church can continue to deliver its vitally important historic mission to serve the community through its schools. Other staff, such as the Archdeacon of Oxford and the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, also now have office space at DCH which was not previously the case. The Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST), a multi-academy trust supporting a growing family of academies across the Diocese of Oxford, needs an increasing amount of office space.

Furthermore, there is a significant shortage of meeting space at DCH to hold events and training, and insufficient car parking space around the site. “The building has served us well, but like many organisations, we have found that our needs have changed over time,” said Rosemary Pearce, the Diocesan Secretary. “While we try to be good neighbours in the village, our visitors frequently end up parking their cars all along the narrow North Hinksey Lane and on the grass verges, which is clearly less than ideal and we often have to hire external venues for meetings, and that is both inconvenient and expensive.”

Bishop’s Council charged the diocesan staff to look at a range of options for the future, which included building on to DCH. The buildings team drew up some plans for extensions, but it soon became clear that this would only exacerbate the parking problem. And costings showed that this would almost certainly be more expensive than purchasing a modern office building, not to mention the huge upheaval for visitors and staff during the building and refurbishment works.

“This is a decision that the Bishop’s Council has taken only after a great deal of careful thought and soul searching,” said The Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, the Acting Bishop of Oxford. “We’ve had to think about the long term strategy of the Diocese, not just the immediate squeeze on space. We are planning for the next 15 years. Our vision is that we will provide a place of hospitality and service, a resource centre for the parishes we serve. We also believe that developments such as open-plan working will offer significant advantages in terms of working across teams.

“The project team is now working hard on the fit-out of the new building, to ensure that we make wise decisions about matters such as the best use of space and 21st century IT. It’s been a very big decision, but I’m delighted that we are now in a position to move forward with confidence.”

Sarah Meyrick is the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Oxford. 

Why Kidlington?

Bishop’s Council asked the diocesan team to bring forward proposals to provide a fit-for- purpose office building. The options were limited: we wanted to buy a freehold building, to avoid the costs associated with renting. A number of possibilities across a range of locations were considered. Given the size of the area served by the ODBF staff, no single location is perfect for everyone in the three counties. However, Bishop’s Council members overwhelmingly supported the Kidlington option because of the facilities on offer. The location is accessible by road and public transport. A brand new railway station, Oxford Parkway, has just opened, linking Kidlington to London and Oxford via the Chiltern Line. Because there is sufficient space, Church House Oxford will also house the Dorchester Area Office. A bonus factor is that this will be a convenient location for our new Bishop who will be living in Kidlington.

Won’t it cost a lot of money?

Every move costs money. However, we will be selling DCH, and the good news is that changes in planning laws mean that it is worth significantly more than it was 18 months ago. By buying another office, we have also invested in another asset. Until DCH is sold, it is impossible to give a precise figure for the cost of the move, but the costs are being monitored extremely closely by the diocesan team and the Planning and Budget Sub-Committee of the Bishop’s Council. Because it is modern, the new building is more energy efficient. Ongoing maintenance costs are also expected to be proportionately lower, bearing in mind the number of staff and visitors the building will cater for.
So how will it be paid for?
We will take out a long term loan once DCH is sold and the cost of the move is known. Servicing this loan has been factored into future budgets. But all the calculations have been done on the basis that it will not have a significant impact on the parish share.

What about the DCH staff?

Any such move involves change for our staff and that can be challenging. Members of staff are involved in working out the best options for the layout and fitting out of the offices. There are statutory processes for consultation in such circumstances and HR colleagues are working closely with staff to ensure that the move goes well.

See also the Presentation on office move 14 Nov 15 given by David Mason, Director of Glebe and Buildings, at the meeting of the diocesan synod in November 2015.

This is an older post. Please note that the information may not be accurate anymore.