Heritage group wants to block Victorian church’s new hall

BY GRAINNE CUFF
BBC LOCAL GOVERNMENT CORRESPONDENT

A Gothic revival church would be spoiled if a congregation was allowed to rebuild its hall, conservationists say.

Members of St Mildred’s Church in Lee, are currently using two double decker buses for a temporary meeting space.

The new hall would be built to replace a 50-year-old one which closed in July.

The church architects say of the new one: “It is intended to provide an important multi-purpose resource to address pressing local needs.

“It will enable the church to continue to serve the local area and will provide an important community facility for current and future generations.”

If the plans are approved, there will also be 27 parking spaces, three motorcycle spaces and cycle storage.

But planning officers noted there was “significant” concern that the build would obscure “one of the most important and prominent architectural features of the church” – the apse.

James Hughes, of the Victorian Society, objected to the plans on the grounds that the new build would “erode the special architecture” of the church, which was designed by a little-known architect named Elliott in the late 1800s.

He said: “What is envisaged in respect of the proposed extension would severely erode the special architectural interest of the building and the positive contribution it makes to the surrounding streetscape.

“The extension would wrap round the whole of the east end of the church – the southeastern chapel, apse and the eastern wall of the north transept swallowed up in the process – even protruding greedily of the north wall of the transept.

“The whole architectural effect and geometry of the east end would, as a result, be enormously compromised and subjugated, and that is simply on the basis of its general form, scale and location.

“Materially the proposed new building would be an alien and jarring addition to both the church and the street scene.”

But the proposed church hall has some support.

A petition was set up urging Lewisham Council to back the proposals, which had almost 600 signatures.

Supporters emphasised the value of a community space.

Davina Fowler said: “It’s my local church and a centre for the whole community.

“It’s a safe place for those in need who need local help and advice.

“It runs all the local Beaver, Scouts, Brownies and local youth clubs all needed to help local children grow and learn new skills they won’t have if it’s not here.”

Penelope Robinson said: “It is a valuable part of the community.

“And with all the Government cuts, and the way the world is to date – crime, loneliness, mental health issues – we need people in the community to be actively helping everyone, pulling together.”

The plans are due to be decided on by a Lewisham planning committee next Tuesday (November 12).

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