Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 13°C

min temp: 12°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Birch: Campaigners fear a 170-year-old church will be demolished despite there being a viable scheme to save it

12:00 13 February 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.

Campaigners fear a 170-year-old church will be demolished despite there being a viable scheme to save it.

shares
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.

The Grade II-listed St Peter and St Paul’s church in Birch, near Colchester, which closed in 1990, has stood empty for almost 25 years and has fallen into disrepair.

The Diocsese of Chelmsford, which looks after the Church of England’s affairs in Essex, says it has been unable to find a suitable alternative use for the historic building in that time. Now Church Commissioners have earmarked it for demolition, a decision that has to rubber stamped by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government before it can go ahead.

But Heritage groups, such as The Victorian Society and the Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust, say church bosses should reconsider their decision in the light of potential new customers - Gary Cottee and his family - coming forward, who want to restore and convert it into a home.

According to Mr Cottee, a local builder, his designs involve removing the southern aisle of the church but keeping the spire and main facades in place. He says the vast majority of people in the village are supportive of his plans.

“There are some people who only want to see a church used for its original purposes but most people understand the landmark can only be preserved by finding an alternative use,” he said.

“I would like to restore the building for my family to live in and not for profit to sell on.”

However, Church Commissioners have decided this current plan is not “viable or sustainable” - a view that has angered conservation groups.

“We are mystified at the decision of the Church Commissioners to press ahead with the demolition of St Peter’s, a beautiful and nationally important building when there is now a viable scheme for its preservation,” said Tom Ashley, a churches conservation adviser at the Victorian Society.

A spokesman for the Chelmsford Diocese said the organisation supported the demolition plans and added: “St Peter’s church building in Birch has been closed and not used for worship for nearly 25 years. During this time Chelmsford Diocese has consulted with interested parties such as local councils and other representative organisations and invited them to make suggestions as to how the building might be used. However, in spite of several major efforts, a suitable alternative has not been found.”

She added: “The Closed Churches Committee of the Church Commissioners decided that the recent proposals to convert the building into a home were not financially viable or sustainable, and would have led to a further lengthy period of uncertainty about the future of the church.

“The final decision and next steps depend on Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.”

shares

1 comment

  • The church hasn't been used for 20+ years. Fact is, if it was a church, it might have 25 people use it once or twice a week. People need to stop being so emotional, just because it's a church, and accept that it's a decaying mess and potentially dangerous. At £1.3million to restore, there's just no point. Knock it down and building a community hall.

    Report this comment

    Ritchie Hicks

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jane Segust, deputy head at Exning Primary School, outside the school, which has been damaged in an arson attack.

A west Suffolk school community has been left “devastated” following an arson attack on the first day of term.

Essex fire crews attended

Firefighters in Essex have been called to a blaze at an art warehouse in Colchester this evening.

London Road North in Lowestoft has been cordoned off by emergency services.

Emergency services have descended on the centre of Lowestoft following an incident this afternoon.

Shotley wins Village of the Year.

Shotley has been announced the winner of the annual Suffolk Village of the Year competition.

Firefighters attended the incident

Emergency services were called to a crash on the A14 near Coddenham this afternoon.

It won't be the real thing, sadly, but there is an Abba tribute in Colchester this weekend

Brave the September weather this weekend and treat family and friends to a day out in East Anglia. Unsure where to go? Here are 10 events you shouldn’t miss:

Fire crews at the scene of a fire behind the former Burton's factory in Ipswich Waterfront

Firefighters have been called to a fire at the former Burtons factory on Ipswich Waterfront.

Jonathan Dotchin, Kezi Mellen UCS LGBT+ society with Valerie Jarvis of Theta Cafe with some of the items collected for Calais refugees.

Members of a university Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) society have launched a collection for refugees in Calais.

Ronald Chisnall

An 89-year-old widower who sexually assaulted two schoolgirls at his Ipswich home has been jailed for 34 months.

The A14

Emergency teams worked to release a man trapped in his car after it overturned on the A14.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages