Drivers have been urged to avoid Swaffham’s parish churchyard today as work on a major improvement project on the site gets under way.
Up to £300,000, with most of the cash coming from a lottery grant, is set to be spent on two renovation schemes at the St Peter and St Paul church during 2014, which officials hope will boost volunteers and worshippers alike.
Contractors moved in yesterday to fell three trees in the first phase of works, which are expected to cost up to £50,000, to create a new car park and improve drainage on the site.
Denis Bishop, a member of the church’s parochial church council (PCC) said: “The project is based on the principle of enhancing the environment around our church.
“We have a great opportunity for development and restoration which will enhance the work being carried out by the ministry team and all the church volunteers.”
The remaining work on the churchyard is expected to start next month, to coincide with planned resurfacing works by Norfolk County Council contractors.
Some gravestones will be removed to create the car park, which will accommodate up to 18 vehicles, though officials say the graves will remain grassed and do not need to be excavated.
The felling of the trees will also make access to the church easier for funeral and wedding cars and replacement trees will be planted elsewhere on the site.
The churchyard project is expected to be completed over the next few months, while work to improve the building itself is expected to get underway in the spring.
It was announced last summer that the church would benefit from a £250,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
That money will be used to make the building watertight, amid concerns that water was not draining away properly and may be starting to adversely affect the fabric of the building.
Disabled access will also be improved by removing two steps up to the main west door, while work to enhance the church’s kitchen facilities will also be included in the programme.