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Back on the agenda: plans to replace historic church with houses
10:20am Monday 16th April 2012 in News
PLANS to demolish a historic church for housing have been revived, to the dismay of campaigners.
They have vowed to fight on to save the Victory Gospel Church, in North Baddesley, which has already been the subject of several other applications for development.
One such plan was turned down only last month, amid strong opposition from residents who want it kept for the community.
The new application by Gale Homes Ltd, submitted to Test Valley Borough Council, is to knock down the church and build three detached three bedroom homes.
But councillors expressed fears that demolishing the church may actually resolve the previous planning grounds on which it was refused.
Victory Gospel Church congregation has moved to the former Mecca Bingo Hall in Portswood, Southampton, and want to sell the site after finding no-one to take it on.
But the family of William Smith, who built the church on Nutburn Road in 1887, dispute the ownership and claim his will declared it should always belong to the community.
The site has been the subject of four previous applications since 2009. Last month, borough planners threw out a revised plan by Gale Homes for three detached houses, which kept the front section of the church because it had too few parking spaces.
The applicant stated that the Victory Gospel Church had outgrown the facility and that, as part of a previous applications, letters had been sent out enquiring if anyone was interested in buying the premises and there had only been one response and no offer.
It also stated that the proposed development would be compatible with the residential character of the area. Villager Mary Callow, 75, who is a descendant of Mr Smith, said she was upset and disappointed by the fresh plans, but not surprised.
She claimed that it was not the congregation’s to sell and said she would continue to fight the plans.
David Knight, chairman of North Baddesley Parish Council, said that the church builder had stipulated in his will that the church should be given to the village for use as a church.
He added that a large number of residents were opposed to the plans. “We’ll strongly object to it,” he said.
“They seem to be trying to wear us down by putting applications in. There is no reason for that building to be knocked down, it belongs to the community and the community needs it.”
He argued that Test Valley had a duty to provide buildings for community use.
County councillor for Baddesley, Alan Dowden, said the last plan had preserved the church hall, which led to refusal because there were only two parking spaces for potential church visitors.
He said, with the church demolished, it would be difficult for the authority to prevent the proposal on planning grounds so it would be up to the Smith family to prove their case, which was a civil matter.
Planning Concepts and Solutions Ltd did not respond when approached by the Romsey Advertiser and Gale Homes Ltd could not be contacted.
The Victory Gospel Church congregation did not want to comment.