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Armagh church looks to future with major new £550,000 complex plan

A new church halls complex – costing in excess of half a million pounds – is being planned by one Armagh city congregation.

The Free Presbyterian Church proposals would see the floorspace more than double if the go-ahead is given.

A planning application for the new church halls will be publicly advertised this week.

Proposals for the church – submitted care of the minister, Rev David McMillan – have been submitted to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for consideration.

The Free Presbyterian Church was founded by Dr Ian Paisley, the Moderator, and this was his first church.

The former leader of the DUP and the first First Minister of Northern Ireland – who was born in Armagh – chose the site at Georges Street.

The origins of the Free Presbyterian Church were born out a gospel mission held in Armagh in 1965, a move away from the mainstream Protestant churches as a result of the perceived growth of ecumenism.

The first church was a temporary wooden structure on the Mall, but a new site was acquired in 1972, with Dr Paisley cutting the sod on the new building the following year.

It took almost two years to construct and the Moderator presided at the official opening of the Armagh Free Presbyterian Church building on January 4, 1975.

Given the nature of the site on an extreme slope, the main church building is accommodated on the upper of two levels. A church hall at present can be found at the lower level with a capacity for 120.

The present floorspace consists of a total of 519 sq metres of floor space. This development would add an additional 606 sq metres to the church facilities, more than doubling its capacity with a floor space of 1,120 sq metres.

The church halls would include, among other things, a main hall, toilet provision and creche facilities.

There would also be additional car parking provision made available on site.

The Rev David McMillan has been at the helm of Armagh Free Presbyterian Church for the past six years, having succeeded the Rev Ron Johnstone, and the church is thriving.

The congregation is clearly planning for the future with what would be one of the biggest local church-based developments in the city for many years.

The total cost, Armagh I understands, is in the region of £550,000.

Council planning officials have written to notify neighbours in Langs Crescent, Grove Gardens, Folly Lane and Rosemount Park of the plans.

They will now consider the proposals in depth before making a recommendation to go back to councillors through the planning and regulatory services committee.

The church itself sits in the shadow of the Clump, where the same committee this week will decide whether or not to accept a recommendation to approve a controversial plan to build 22 new houses on the former playing fields, the highest point in the city.

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