COMMUNITY groups are set to feel the benefit of improved facilities as renovation work gets under way at a Popley church.

The much-used community hall at St Gabriel’s Church, in Tewkesbury Close, is set to double in size and gain a flat-roof extension after the church received a £400,000 funding boost from Basingstoke and Deane District Council (BDBC).

More than 750 people of all ages currently attend meetings held at the church hall and once the work is completed, they will be able to expand their membership and use the new community café, better toilet facilities and larger meeting rooms.

With the population set to grow with new housing developments nearby, the church’s extension will provide much-needed extra space and further amenities to meet people’s needs.

The church aims to promote the improved community space and increase activity by a further 50 per cent.

The Reverend Arthur Botham said: “We are delighted that the building works have begun and excited at the prospect of their completion and launch to our community.

“We are grateful to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and their unstinting support through the Local Infrastructure Fund for this vital community project.”

The first phase of the improvements will double the size of the existing hall and include the construction of a flat-roofed extension with improved disabled access, a larger kitchen, new toilets with disabled and baby change facilities, more storage and new meeting rooms, while the second phase will see a permanent community café in the foyer.

In the final phase, the church plans to extend its worship area to accommodate up to 200 people.

Councillor Robert Tate, BDBC cabinet member for finance, service delivery and improvement said: “It is great to see work begin on extending the community hall facilities at St Gabriel’s Church “This project has been funded by the council’s Local Infrastructure Fund and is highly-anticipated by local community groups who will benefit greatly from the improvements that are being made.

“The community hall is very accessible to the whole community, and will now provide even more opportunities to local clubs and organisations to expand their membership.

“It will also allow new community-driven activities, such as dance or martial arts, to be introduced.”