Support fight to convert St Mary’s, Devizes meeting is told
8:00am Wednesday 29th January 2014 in By Lewis Cowen
The group proposing to turn St Mary’s Church in Devizes into a much-needed community venue have appealed to local people to support their cause.
Wiltshire councillors caused a storm of protest in the town when they turned down plans for a circular cloister extension to the church to provide meeting rooms, office and storage space and toilets so that the redundant church could embark on a new life as a community centre.
This followed objections from English Heritage and Wiltshire Conservation who said the plans would cause serious harm to the setting of the church, though it has been pointed out that the medieval church is largely screened from view by the neighbouring Chantry Court, which was built in the 1990s.
The eastern area planning committee ignored the support the scheme had from the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches and the Archdeacon of Wiltshire, the Venerable Ruth Worsley.
Now the St Mary Future Group is considering its options and invited local people to a meeting in the church last Thursday to hear options and comment.
Group chairman Tony Scorer recapped on the events at the planning meeting in October and told the audience that the group was following two parallel lines of action – either appealing against the planning decision or submitting a new, smaller scheme.
Architect George Batterham outlined how the group would employ an appeals consultant and showed plans for a less ambitious scheme, in which either end of the semi-circular cloister would be open with a smaller building halfway along the curve.
But several speakers pointed out that the loss of meeting rooms and toilets would mean a loss of income as laid out in the business plan which will be sent out to potential funding bodies.
Mr Scorer appealed to those present to write to the planning department at Wiltshire Council supporting the plan to save St Mary’s by converting it for use as a performance venue and community centre.
He said: “Please support our vision for the future of our church by writing to the planning officers.”
The group is also looking for volunteers to help organise a number of fundraising events at the church, which include a book sale on February 15, a production of Jesus Christ Superstar from April 29 to May 4, fashion shows and concerts.