A £1.5m vision for the Minster

New work: Hilary Barber wants to see the Misnter used by the wider community
New work: Hilary Barber wants to see the Misnter used by the wider community

A £1.5million redevelopment scheme for Halifax Minster has been unveiled.

Vicar of Halifax Hilary Barber hopes to bring the Minster back to the centre of the community.

Three rows of 17th century pews will be taken out of the Grade 1 listed building to create a larger stage at the front of the church.

There are also plans for a new building in the grounds of the church that will have office space and proper kitchen facilities for the church.

Mr Barber said: “Nine hundred ago the church was the only public building with a roof. “It was a place for people to meet. Markets were held here. It was a hive of activity for what is now the borough of Calderdale.

“We want to be able to hold events and concerts here. We’ve had bands and string quartets play here but people weren’t able to see them because of the current stage.”

The plans coincide with developments across Halifax including the Broad Street Plaza and Mr Barber said this can be part of a new combined approach for the area.

“We need a joined-up approach,” he said. “With the recent goings-on at Lloyds Banking Group, as a town we can’t be reliant on financial services and the public sector.

“The focus needs to be on tourism, using the jewels of the area like the Minster and Piece Hall.

“The Minster is a place for everyone whether you are Christian, of different faith or have no faith.”

Some of the contemporary pews at the rear of the church will be removed to create a meeting area and Mr Barber plans to create a shop space for tourist souvenirs.

He also wants to improve lighting at the church to bring it into the 21st century with a fully computerised system to suit all occasions from Sunday service to evening meetings.

Architect Nicholas Rank, of Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams, has been appointed to oversee the redevelopment.

He is known for his work on Lincoln Cathedral and is on the shortlist for St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and is described by Mr Barber as “very very experienced”.

The Minster has recently appointed an education officer, Nancy White, to help schoola use the building as a learning tool.

She has developed plans for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 pupils which include historic trails and RE tours.

They will cost between £2.50 and £4 per child and will help to bring vital funds into the church.

The news comes as The Minster has been receiving national recognition having appeared on the BBC for Pentecost Celebrations and will be featured on Songs of Praise in November and January 2012.