Friday, 19 August 2022

Old church could be turned into three-bedroom house

A CHURCH that has not been used for more than four years could be converted into a home.

Keith Charles, of Twickenham, has applied to turn St Paul’s Church in Highmoor into a three-bedroom house.

The Grade II listed building, which is off the B481, has been in mothballs since June 2012 when the parish of Highmoor was united with Nettlebed by the Diocese of Oxford.

Last year it  was advertised for sale for offers in excess of £300,000 and negotiations are continuing between the applicant and the diocese. The sale would include the churchyard.

The church was designed by Joseph Morris, of Reading, and built in 1859.

It is made of knapped flint with Bath stone detailing and has a nave with shallow west porch, chancel, south vestry and bellcote.

In a heritage and access statement, RDP Architects, of Hastings, says the applicant is “very sympathetic” to the importance of the building.

It says: “They see this as an ideal opportunity to save the building for the foreseeable future while retaining its former character and charm.

“The church has now been vacant for many years but, with the exception of some areas of damp, the building is not suffering too severely, although damp penetration, if not checked, will certainly very quickly begin to have more serious detrimental effects.”

Under the plans submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council, the frontage would not be changed but the interior would be altered to create a first floor lounge and dining area.

The application says: “As the nave is relatively narrow, it is proposed to utilise the new first floor for the living accommodation, thus enabling that area to be fully open into the roof and thereby retaining much of the visual space, charm and character of the building while still appreciating the scale of the internal spaces.

“It is proposed to introduce additional natural light into this first floor area by the means of new conservation-style roof windows located between existing roof trusses and purlins.”

The ground floor would be used for the bedrooms, with the current entrance porch used as a shared en-suite for the two smaller bedrooms. The chancel would become the kitchen and the vestry would become a family room.

The south-west side of the building would be extended twice to create an entrance lobby and utility area.

The application says: “The design of these extensions has been sympathetically resolved to include traditional local materials, such as oak framing and flint-faced masonry, while not competing or conflicting with existing finishes and forms.”

The extensions would increase the overall floor space from 187 sq m to 221 sq m.

A new access would be created on to the B481 and there would be three parking spaces.

All the stained glass windows would remain. The organ would be removed and most of the fittings, including the font and pulpit, would be retained by the diocese, although some pews would remain.

The church is within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The heritage statement says: “The proposals have been carefully developed to address issues raised to date by all parties consulted and to achieve a new dwelling to a standard commensurate with current sustainable standards while retaining the character of the listed building.

“The proposals have been put before both the Diocese of Oxford and the Church Buildings Council and have received their support, so we trust that this application can be similarly supported by the district council.”

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