Monday, September 23, 2013
PLANS for an extension to Ottery St Mary Parish Church were handed a lifeline this week after planning officials agreed to visit the site before a final decision is made.
Officers at East Devon District Council (EDDC) had recommended the proposed extension be refused on the grounds that the damage caused to the 14th century church would outweigh the benefit.
But members of the EDDC development management committee disagreed, and voted eight-to-five against the refusal.
An extension to the north wall of the church would house four toilets and a small storage area, but the plans were not supported by English Heritage who would prefer to see the north porch converted instead.
Councillor Ken Potter said that he regularly visited the church and fully understood the need for new toilet facilities.
He added: “It is packed to the gunnels on many occasions and to use the storage space in the north porch instead of building an extension would be a great shame.”
Councillor Mark Williamson said he had agonised about this decision, but felt that the proposed extension would meet the needs of the church much more than a conversion.
“The church is not a grade one listed museum – it is a community that serves the people of Ottery,” he said.
Councillor Ben Ingham said that he felt the planning officers were acting ‘too righteously for their own good’.
“The church governors should be able to site their toilets at their own convenience,” he added.
Councillor David Key sympathised with the church, but said he believed the governors would have to sacrifice some existing storage space to accommodate the new toilets.
He said: “Unfortunately I can not support this application - most churches have to forfeit a room or vestry instead of building an extension.”
After the site visit takes place the application will be considered once more by EDDC and a final decision made.