Restoration of deluged parish hall in doubt after land declared a floodplain
A decision to designate land in Co Londonderry as a floodplain has likely sunk plans by a church to restore a parish hall damaged two years ago.
St Canice's Parish Church in Eglinton and its nearby hall were among many buildings in the village caught up in severe flooding in August 2017.
The church reopened in June 2018, but this week hopes to sell a piece of land to help fund the restoration of the parish hall were dashed.
The four-and-a-half acre site, which the church expected to make £650,000 from, has been designated as a floodplain by the Department for Infrastructure, slashing its value significantly and likely putting an end to the parish hall proposal.
The Rector of St Canice's, the Rev Canon Paul Hoey, said the department's decision was a tremendous blow to their restoration plan.
He said: "Two acres of the field had been deemed suitable for residential development and the Select Vestry had been hoping to sell it for housing for Eglinton's growing population.
"The department's decision has the effect of reducing the value from the sale from potentially over £650,000 to whatever the agricultural rate is.
"The population of Eglinton was predicted to rise considerably in the next few years, adding considerably to the pressure on the village's few community amenities.
"As the only one of the local churches with a building in the village, we are ideally placed to reach out in mission to the local community.
"We see a state-of-the-art parish centre as being critical to our vision to extend God's kingdom further in the village of Eglinton."
Eglinton was among the communities worst affected by the August 2017 floods.
At the time the Select Vestry agreed its priorities were supporting the 20% of parish households directly affected by the flooding, repairing St Canice's Church and deciding what to do about the parish hall, which has now been unusable for over two years.
Canon Hoey said the next few weeks would be a time for "reflection, prayer and discussion" while parishioners consider what to do next.
The Church of Ireland clergyman said: "We've been told that any appeal would be costly and likely to fail and we also want to be good neighbours.
"We don't wish to delay flood protection measures being provided to protect local homes in the village, so we're not going to rush into any decisions.
"We need to give ourselves time to know our own mind, to seek God's mind and to explore all options."
A parish meeting will be held in October, when a final decision will be made.
The Department for Infrastructure had not responded to a request for comment by time of going to press.