Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Church to 'move on' after planning victory

ST LEONARD’S Church in Watlington says it wants to draw a line under the long-running saga of its redevelopment plans after finally being granted planning permission.

The church in Pyrton Lane can demolish its hall next door and build a five-
bedroom house and a new rectory in its place after winning an appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision to refuse consent.

Planning inspector David Murray ruled that the development with houses “of an appropriate design” would be a “positive enhancement of the conservation area when seen as a whole”.

He noted that the intention was to make the Grade II* listed church “a vital cultural and community resource as well as a centre of worship”.

Associate priest Angie Paterson said: “Obviously we’re pleased with the outcome of the appeal. We need to wait to see if anybody intends to challenge it but there’s a lot of history there and it’s a question of moving on. The whole process has been quite difficult. We hope this is the end of the chapter and we can move on.”

Rev Paterson said the church could now build a new home for rector Rev Daniel Thompson, who was inducted this week and is currently living in rented accommodation.

She added: “It will release some capital and enable us to do a small extension on the church which, if anything, will allow us to put disabled toilets in. It will help us meet some of the expectations that people have.”

The church was granted planning permission for a £150,000 extension five years ago. The parochial church council said it wanted to equip the church with modern facilities and make it a cultural and community resource as well as a centre of worship.

Mr Murray said: “The appellant says that in this strategy the existing church hall is not needed and there is the opportunity to replace it with better development which in turn would generate funds to contribute towards the repair and improvements through the sale of the market dwelling and also provide a rectory.

“I find that the present church hall does not contribute positively to the quality of the space in the conservation area. Likewise, the parking area is an extensive and unrelieved expanse of Tarmac which detracts from the quality of the space. Therefore, I see no objection in principle to the demolition of the existing building and the relocation and reforming of the car park.”

Mr Murray accepted that the houses would roughly double the size of the footprint of the buildings and that there would be a reduction in the openness of the space. The two-storey houses would also be greater in building bulk when compared to the single storey hall.

But he added: “Given the architecture form of the new houses, which can reasonably be described to be of a vernacular design, there would be a considerable improvement over the present hall structure.

“This visual enhancement would outweigh the reduction in the openness of this space and improve rather than harm the setting of the church and churchyard.”

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