MEMBERS of St John’s Church in Hartford have finally been handed the keys to their new church hall.

Building work to replace the old church hall on Chester Road started in November 2009 and was due for completion in August in time for the village’s summer fete.

However, the project, costing £1.4 million, was delayed for a month due to building work and was officially declared open in a short service on Wednesday, September 22.

The redevelopment includes five multi-purpose rooms, a kitchen, foyer, main hall, offices, and access for the disabled, over two floors.

The Rev Mike Smith, vicar of Hartford, said it was a relief to finally be handed the keys.

He said: “We’re all absolutely thrilled.

“It’s been five and a half years since the we started the planning and it’s been a long process.

“It’s been designed around the needs of our church but to have a use within the wider community.

The building was designed by a local architect whose aim was to draw something in line with the recent extension at St John’s Church.

However the building has caused controversy in the village when earlier this year Hartford Civic Society described it as ‘a blight on the area’.

The Rev Mike Smith defended the planning process and said that the new building would bring the church into the modern day.

“The word of the gospel never changes but the way in which we teach it has too and we believe the new building would help us do that,” he added.

l To mark the opening of the church the Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Dr Peter Forester, will hold a service at the hall on Sunday, November 7 at 4pm.