Parochial council claims refused extension is vital to building’s survival
5:00pm Thursday 31st October 2013 in News
THE Parochial Church Council of St Mary’s Church, Devizes, has pledged to carry on with its plans for an extension despite Wiltshire Council’s Eastern area planning committee refusing permission last Thursday.
St Mary’s rector, the Rev Canon Paul Richardson, said without an extension the plans to hold performances and exhibitions inside the church could not happen and it would close.
About 170 supporters of St Mary’s were at the planning committee meeting at Devizes School and they were stunned by the refusal.
Mr Richardson said: “There’s certainly some anger around the community at the decision to refuse permission. From our point of view there’s a huge sense of disappointment but there’s no discouragement.
“Every time I walk into the town I’m accosted by people who are still amazed that with so many arguments in favour the committee was not able to give agreement. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who went to the planning committee meeting or who has supported the plans.”
PCC members will meet on Wednesday evening to discuss their options, which include appealing against the decision or submitting a new application with some revisions to the design, such as the materials used.
But Mr Richardson said the PCC could not reduce the footprint of the proposed curved glazed cloister extension.
He said: “The footprint is the minimum that enables the building to be used. If we do anything less than that the future use of St Mary’s will not be viable.”
The committee followed the recommendation of planning officers to refuse permission, although voting was close at 4-3 with the chairman of the committee, Charles Howard, not voting. Those who voted to refuse it were Coun Stewart Dobson (Marlborough East), Coun Mark Connolly (Tidworth), Coun Nick Fogg (Marlborough West) and Coun Jerry Kunkler (Pewsey).
Councillors Richard Gamble (The Lavingtons and Erlestoke), Peter Evans (Devizes East) and Paul Oatway (Pewsey Vale) voted against refusal.
Wiltshire Council planning manager Mike Wilmott told the meeting that the extension was out of keeping with St Mary’s, one of the most important grade I listed buildings in the country.
He said: “This is a contemporary addition to a very old building. Let’s make no bones about it, this will make substantial harm to the setting of this building. There is no evidence that this is the only way that the future of the building can be secured and anything less is, frankly, blackmail.”
Wiltshire Council’s conservation officer, Helen Garside, and English Heritage, both objected to the extension. The PCC has been working on the extension plans for the past five years and said it has widespread support among the community.
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