A joint project between a church and school in Cornwall is the first of its kind in England.

St Wenn Parish Church and the village school have gone into partnership funding a biomass boiler which heats both buildings but using separate systems.

Not only is the new boiler good for the environment but it will also help reduce costs. The boiler, which is sited between the church and school, is fed two to three times a year with pellets which are paid for through renewable energy payments from the government.

The project came about after St Wenn vicar Elke Deeley approached local resident Stephen Chidgey for advice on how to make the church more energy efficient and warm.

Knowing the school was also facing similar issues, Stephen suggested the two work together and install a biomass boiler and in doing so, set a project in motion which now just over 12 months later, is almost complete.

A £100,000 British Gas eco award to the school provided a huge boost along with unwavering support from a small band of villagers who donated their time and energy free of charge to help clear rotten floorboards and supporting joists in the church ready for the installation of the underfloor pipes by the contractor 5D Group.

This month self-levelling floor screed was pumped into the Grade 1 listed church and it is hoped that by Christmas, the underfloor heating will be on and the congregation can get their first taste of what the future holds.

Stephen said: “The project has been supported by so many in the community and is a real team effort. This project will provide a warm, open, uncluttered space that will benefit the whole community and be useful for all sorts of functions and gatherings as well as church services. The work that’s been undertaken this year will also help protect the fabric of the building for years to come and bring the church back to the centre of the community.”

The project has not been without its issues. As well as concerns over the scale of the work to the listed church, £15,000 was needed towards the costs of the project and more fund raising events will be required to ensure it can be completed. But with each day closer to the finish, the excitement of those involved grows.DSC03797

Churchwarden Barbara Crowle said: “When it’s cold in the winter, it’s really icy, so we are hoping that we will now be able to give everyone a warm welcome.”

The new partnership will also provide an added benefit for the school who regularly use the church for activities.

Ingrid Bennet, head of St Wenn School, said: “The school and the church are the real hubs of our community and because we are so rural it probably is more important.

“The school is now lovely and warm and it’s almost free of charge. The biomass boiler is being used during the week for the school and at weekends for the church. It’s a perfect arrangement.”

And there are other advantages. Ingrid said: “The school has almost doubled in size in the last three years so space is an issue. Having the church so close and with what will be such a useable space will be great. We already hold our music lessons in the church and our hymn practises and we take part in the various festivals such as Easter and Harvest so we already have a lovely relationship there. We have lots of ideas for how we could use the church once it is finished.”

Barbara added: “We are really excited to be able to offer the space to the school and community because we feel that’s what it’s all about. Being able to offer a useful amenity.”

Once all the work is complete and the pews on castors are back in the church, the team are planning a service of dedication and celebration.