Anger as bid to save old church fails

A CAMPAIGN group hoping to save an historic former church in Essex has been dealt a blow with the news that their bid to buy the building has been refused.

Annie Davidson

A CAMPAIGN group hoping to save an historic former church in Essex has been dealt a blow with the news that their bid to buy the building has been refused.

Save the Garrison Church had been hoping to take on the former army building in Colchester's Military Road which has stood empty and unused for the last year.

The Grade II* listed building has been on the market since January after a new church was built as part of a multi-million pound redevelopment of the town's garrison.

The campaigners had been hoping to create a community facility which could be used for events including concerts, exhibitions and art and drama events.

Agents Fenn Wright had been selling the church on behalf of owners Taylor Wimpey and bids had been invited from interested groups by a deadline earlier this month.

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Wendy Bailey, spokesman for Save the Garrison Church, said yesterday that the group had received a letter from Fenn Wright on Saturday telling them their bid had been unsuccessful.

Mrs Bailey branded the decision “an absolute disgrace” and was critical of the fact the letter gave no reason why the bid had been turned down.

She said: “What does it say to the people of Colchester? If it is money, then tell us how much you want for it.

“People have spent six months working on this only to have it rejected with no explanation.”

Save the Garrison Church had previously reacted angrily to the news that the Russian Orthodox Church in Felixstowe had put in a bid for the 1850s building as well as a planning application for internal alterations.

The plans will be discussed by Colchester Borough Council on Thursday but have already been recommended for approval subject to some conditions.

Mrs Bailey said the proposed changes to the church, which would accommodate the Russian Orthodox Church's style of worship, would not fit in with guidelines dating back to 2001 which said it must be used for education, community and leisure.

“It should be run as a centre for the community of Colchester and the orthodox church's bid would provide for the orthodox community,” she said.

“It would be a central place where they could worship but could be used by people from Chelmsford or Harwich.

“It is part of Colchester's military history but as I understand it people from Colchester would not be able to access it or stage concerts there.

“It is a scandal of the greatest order - are we going to sell the castle next?”

A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church has previously said the building would be let out for community use and that the plans had the backing of English Heritage.

A Taylor Wimpey spokesperson commented: “Taylor Wimpey is pleased to confirm that a number of expressions of interest were received in respect of the sale of the former Garrison Church in Colchester following an informal tender process.

“The decision process to determine the most appropriate new owners is underway and those expressions of interest which are best able to fulfil the required criteria are currently being ratified.

“A number of bids which were unable to demonstrate compatibility in terms of use or financial strength and overall sustainability have been rejected.

“The Garrison Church is an important Grade II* Listed building and we wish to ensure the best possible outcome for this landmark building.”

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