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Birch: Hope restored for listed St Peter and St Paul’s Church after study shows it is in ‘reasonable condition’

PUBLISHED: 11:30 25 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:53 25 July 2014

St Peter and St Paul’s church in Birch is under the threat of demolition.

St Peter and St Paul’s church in Birch is under the threat of demolition.

An informal public inquiry enforced by Eric Pickles has given Birch residents hope for the future of the Grade II listed St Peter and St Paul’s Church.

The church’s fate has been in discussion for more than a year after the Diocese of Chelmsford, which looks after the Church of England’s affairs in Essex, ordered for its demolition in January 2013.

Several heritage groups raised objections and The Colchester & North East Essex Building Preservation Trust undertook a viability study to fight for the church.

The study established that the building was in a reasonable condition despite having been left to rot for 25 years.

David Balcombe, director of The Colchester & NE Essex BPT, said: “A lot of people have relatives buried in the church yard or got married there and even more people attended the local primary school, and used to go to the church across the road for services.

“People have very fond memories of the church when it was in active use.”

Gary Cottee, a local builder from Tiptree, wants to restore and convert the church into his family home; his designs involve removing the southern aisle of the church but keeping the spire and main facades in place.

Mr Balcombe said he thought Gary was the ideal person for this kind of scheme and the vast majority of people in the village were supportive of his plans.

Trust Chairman, Simon Hall MBE, said: “This is very good news for the building and for the local community.

Our fear was that the church would be demolished despite having identified a way to save it.

Everyone involved in our campaign has been incredibly patient and remain fully committed to the project. We will now apply our expertise and resources into fighting the case at the public inquiry.”

A date has yet to be set for the hearing.

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