Ottery church plans would do ‘more harm than good’

PUBLISHED: 07:30 16 September 2013

Ottery St Mary Parish Church is one of the top visitor attractions in East Devon

Ottery St Mary Parish Church is one of the top visitor attractions in East Devon

Archant

PLANS to extend Ottery St Mary Parish Church received a setback this week after officials recommended the application be refused.

The Consecration Cross which would need to be moved as part of the extension plansThe Consecration Cross which would need to be moved as part of the extension plans

The proposed single-storey extension would house additional storage space and new toilets with disabled access but planning bosses at East Devon District Council (EDDC) are concerned that the work would cause more harm than good.

Church staff say the toilets are vital to future-proof the building, which can accommodate more than 500 people during busy services, weddings and funerals.

Churchwarden Grenville Gilbert said they had spent thousands of pounds on the application and employed specialist architects to minimise the effect on the 14th century building.

He added: “The church is an important part of the community – we organise events for children after school, we host concerts, and around 1,500 tourists visit the church each year.

The site of the proposed extension on the north side of the ChurchThe site of the proposed extension on the north side of the Church

“I do not want to see the church spoilt but I do want to see it used, now and in the future - we want to keep it open for everyone to use and enjoy.”

“We know how beautiful and significant it is, but what other public building that caters for hundreds of people has no toilets?”

Ottery mum-of-four Nicki Young takes her children to the ‘messy church’ after school activity sessions and said there was a ‘real need’ for toilets and changing facilities in the church, especially on days when there can be up to 40 children in the building.

She added: “At the moment we have to go across the road to the public toilet which is really inconvenient and if it’s dark or raining it’s much worse.”

Planning officers at EDDC have recommended the application be refused because they are concerned the extension, particularly the construction of a new door, would result in ‘significant loss of historical fabric’ and the need to move an important consecration cross.

The report also says that the public benefits would not outweigh the harm caused, and that a clear and convincing need for the extension has not been demonstrated.

A decision will be made by EDDC members when they meet on September 17.


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