Our immediate priority, once the church site had been handed back to us by the police and fire authorities, was to ensure public safety. Because the building is currently in a dangerous state our insurers quickly arranged for high fencing and a 24hr guard to be put in place.
The next priority has been to make the building secure and safe, and to remove the debris. To this end, on Tuesday this week, 30 June, our churchwardens had a lengthy meeting on site with our insurers, loss adjusters, a structural engineer and our Inspecting Architect plus conservator. Our architect has been appointed to oversee the clearance process working with a specialist site clearance company recommended by our insurers. His job is to ensure that the work is carried out expeditiously, but with due regard to protecting and saving any materials which may be required for any future restoration. Once detailed Method Statements have been prepared we will be seeking an open Faculty from the Diocese of Guildford to allow the clearance process to start.
The initial report from the structural engineer indicates that the main brick structures are sound, but some work may be needed to protect them from further damage. The clearance work will start with the high level structure – removing unstable roof beams and tiles for example. Once this is done it will be safe for a team to move in and start work on the debris at ground level. Clearly we all want this to happen as quickly as possible, but this is difficult and specialised work and we need to ensure both the safety of those involved and that due care is taken not to damage the structure further or to lose any fragments which can be salvaged.
As part of the meeting on Tuesday we were able to gain brief access to the interior of the church and have taken a number of photographs which can be viewed below.
At this time we are a long way from making any decisions about how best to restore the building. We recognise that there are already many different opinions on this subject and it is our intention to conduct a timely but wide consultation process involving both our Church family and the broader community of Fleet, so that everyone has an opportunity to express their views. Meanwhile we remain immensely grateful for all the love and support we have received from so many people at this difficult time.