Extension to Wheathampstead village church is rejected
PUBLISHED: 14:59 27 January 2014 | UPDATED: 14:59 27 January 2014
A church has vowed not to give up on its dream of building an extension on the existing building despite its planning application being turned down unanimously by district councillors.
St Albans plans north committee refused the application to build a two storey building linked to St Helen’s Church in Wheathampstead by a glass corridor to provide a new community resource.
And the chair of the committee has admitted the application was one of the “hardest ones I have had to deal with” but any extension would be there for hundreds of years and had to be right.
The proposal for the church centre attached to the Grade 1 listed building was refused for a number of reasons including the fear that its size, position, height and other issues would affect the setting of the church and fail to enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area.
There were also concerns about its impact on the appearance of the area and the landscape of the churchyard as well as the lack of adequate car parking provision.
The proposed development has split the village with some residents concerned that it would be an eyesore and out of keeping with the flint church. But others, including Wheathampstead parish council, felt that the need for extra space that the church could use for such events as harvest lunches and special suppers, outweighed the issues of concern.
Cllr Maxine Crawley, chair of the planning committee, said: “The whole committee felt as I did that the application had been put put in for the best of reasons and everyone felt sad that there were so many ways it did not comply with the Local Plan but you can’t let emotion get in the way.
“It was refused with huge respect and I really hope that they will listen to the reasons for refusal and the community gets what it needs next time.”
The Rector of Wheathampstead, the Rev Richard Banham, said the church was disappointed that the application was not approved despite the large measure of support from the community, the parish council and the diocese. But he said they were delighted that so many of the councillors recognised the church’s urgent need for extra facilities.
The Rev Banham added: “Spurred on by our commitment to worship God and serve the local community we are determined to find an acceptable solution as soon as possible.”