Building Project Q&A

St Mary’s Church in West Horsley has been serving and supporting the local community for nearly 1,000 years!

We are about to embark on the next stage of its evolution. We are working on a project to improve the facilities at the Church and to construct a new Church Centre, both of which will benefit the wider community as well as the Church congregation.

Since we began to consult with our community about the project, we’ve received some questions, comments and suggestions. We hope, and expect, to receive more as we progress so this page has been set up to share some of the topics that are being raised, and to explore answers and solutions as they are agreed or formalised.

If you would like to join the dialogue please email

General Questions

Q: Have the building team considered the access issues onto the A246?

We have engaged a transport consultant as part of the process and advise on the best approach that we can take to ensure, as far as we can, the safety of our visitors on and off the A246.

Q: Will there be accommodation at the church centre, so it can be managed and have a presence for security purposes?

This is an item under discussion. It would inevitably increase the build cost, and so the response to the fundraising launch may inform our thinking as to viability for it.

Q: Who/how will we maintain the building?

This is under consideration, and we will look at options of a contract cleaning company, the possibility of employing a verger, and any other options that folk can suggest.

Q: Will the proposed church centre development impact on the available burial plots at St Mary’s?

No, though as it stands we have space for internments of ashes but very limited new space for burials.

Q: Will the access road be too close to the grave plots, and will this development require gravestones to be moved?

Proximity to grave plots is part of the consideration for the building team and the architects. Since the first iteration of the plans the access road has been re-sited such that it doesn’t impinge on the most westerly graves. We do not know for sure whether we will need to move any of the gravestones at this stage. We will seek to minimise the need to do so, and only where the gravestone is more than 100 years old.

Q: Will there be solar panels on the roof?

Yes, the intention is to include solar panels on either the church centre or the church itself. The overall design approach is to create a sustainable and eco-friendly building and we are working with a sustainability consultant who will advise on the best approach we can adopt within the limitation of our budget and the site.

Q: Should we not consider keeping the Wheelhouse – an invaluable beacon in the centre of the village where people live?

We are very much aware that there is a natural desire to keep what we have and so we can of course consider keeping the Wheelhouse. In reality this means that we would need to raise an additional £1m. If the response to our fundraising initiatives are phenomenal, then this becomes a possibility. 

In addition, while we naturally see the Wheelhouse as a beacon, the reality is that many residents of West Horsley are unfamiliar with it. 

We also need to view the bigger picture. While our move to be as eco-friendly as possible tends to suggest that keeping the Wheelhouse allows us to walk there, the reality is that well over 70% of our congregation live beyond reasonable walking distance, and few who attend events at the Wheelhouse actually do walk or cycle to it. And the facilities will never be as good as for the new church centre where there is more space available. For example, while we have 2 very valuable ministries that use the Wheelhouse today, Noah’s Ark baby and toddler group and the Friday Café, both of those are looking forward to getting better and more appropriate facilities at the new church centre.

We expect that pretty much all our activities would naturally migrate to the new church site. We would need to consider the cost of maintaining and also upgrading the Wheelhouse, as it is not really to standard. 

Q: Who will we appoint as professional advisor for the building tender analysis & clerk of works?

It is too early to say who we will appoint, but it will be an appropriate professional.

Questions For The Re-Ordered Church

Q: Would it be better for the toilets in the re-ordered church to be sited not by the door, but in the east and west porches instead?

We know we will need toilets in the church – the location and the design and siting is very much a current consideration. Having looked at the options, the North West corner is considered to be the best option, but there will be further discussions about the finer elements.

Q: Can there be a larger Café area in the church? – especially needed for when the two services cross over…

The café area in the church is intended to be a simple servery. The full-service café will be sited in the new church centre.

Q: What activities do we expect to offer at the new church centre and can the church building be used too?


The answer is really ‘it’s just too early to say’ but we have had a very good number of suggestions and requests and our commitment is to capture them all and consider them as they become more timely. We’ve included a simple list here so that you might know we have already registered a question or comment on something you are mulling over, or prompted to ask: 

Requests include: A Men’s Shed; a minibus; a studio hut for homeless; a store for food bank donations; a permanent café/shop; a kitchenette for ID; a stained glass window in the prayer room; a window in the prayer room where the light shines on a cross; a useable space to allow children to play outside; room to grow; accessibility; a walkway between church and new centre; removal of the North Aisle Altar to the church centre; review of the use of the existing cellar in the church.

Specific Finance-Related Questions

Q: Does capital gains tax count when working out if paid enough tax to be able to gift aid.


Comment: The costs/fees seemed high.

The estimates are intentionally cautious, and they do include VAT. There are many characteristics of the buildings and the site that require special attention and, inevitably, require the services of specific consultants. We do ensure that the services we commission are competitively priced and will go out to tender for the larger elements.

Q: What happens if not enough money is raised?

All monies donated & pledged are reserved for the building project alone. So if we conclude that we, as St Mary’s congregation, are unable to raise sufficient funds, we will reflect as the PCC and maybe adjust our plans. If we cannot continue, we will return funds given and not spent, across all donors in proportion to the sums given. We want to build the new church centre as fast as we can, so it is important we all give now and pledge as we can over the next few years, to allow us to raise all the funds needed – in the knowledge that if we find we cannot proceed for any reason, money given and unspent will be returned.

Other General Questions

When will the building start?

That depends on the response from Guildford planning and the support we receive. For example, we will need to have raised a significant percentage of the monies required in order to start applying to trusts for grants and to go out to tender for the work. Unless we get certainty that we can raise the entire sum needed, we will not be able to sign a contract with a builder, and so the project will pause until we raise all the needed funds. But our hope is that we can start in 2025.

What happens if we don’t get planning permission?

The pre-application has given us a steer that we should be able to build the new church centre, but the full planning application process may ask us to amend our plans or even refuse. We pray, and ask everyone to join in prayer, that the design submitted together with the supporting arguments, leads to a successful grant of permission, but if it does not, we will review their comments and amend as needed. Sometimes applications need to be revised before they are acceptable, and we will seek God’s further direction if this happens.

If I make a donation, can I stipulate what my money is used for?

No. You can be confident that any contribution you make will be used wholly for the buildings project, but not specific elements within it.

Who will know what I am giving?

All donations will be handled by our Donations Co-ordinator –

Derek Rutherford, our Church Treasurer – Mike Gercke, our Accounts Assistant – Sue Hook, and Gift Aid Co-ordinator – Kate Aitken. All donations are given in complete confidence.

Can I make an interest free loan?

Yes. Our preference is that the majority of donations should come in the form of gifts. However, if we know we have pledges over the forthcoming years to pay back the loan, then this may well enable us to start building earlier.

Isn’t this a bad time given the cost of living crisis?

Yes and No. Yes, in that it remains a difficult time for many institutions and households with less money in their pockets. God may ask us to give more sacrificially than in easier times, but God’s kingdom has never been built by easy or comfortable means! No, because we need to take action now to work for the future to implement our vision.

Can our parish really achieve this challenging goal?

Yes, we believe so. St Mary’s over the years has shown many times that we rise to a challenge. We believe that this building project is God’s plan. Consistently, He has positively answered our prayers as we stepped forward in faith. Against expectation, the Pre-Application process was really positive. And if it is God’s plan for St Mary’s at this time, then He has put US here to be the people to deliver it! That’s exciting. Also, having undertaken much research and seen many other churches locally that have raised substantial funds and been similarly transformed, we believe that the support is there both within the church and throughout the wider community.