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Plan by United Reformed Church Wessex Synod to build five houses on land at Walkford United Reformed church is refused

PLANS to demolish part of a former church and build five houses in its courtyard have been refused over concerns it would destroy a “little oasis”.

Walkford United Reformed Church closed down in 2021 after nearly 200 years as the elderly congregation had dwindled to only a dozen.

The United Reformed Church Wessex synod wanted to build one four-bedroom, two three-bedroom and two two-bedroom houses on the site in Ringwood Road.

It also wanted to create nine car parking spaces and access to the south of the grade II listed building.

Plan was to build five houses on land rear of the church
Plan was to build five houses on land rear of the church

The site of the planned development, according to the synod, was originally designated a burial ground but was never used. In their application it said the five homes would be “cottage scale”.

But a planning officer said that at least one was “excessively tall” with concern over the homes being eight metres in overall height.

According to the synod the land the houses would be built on is “underused and of very limited heritage value to the church”.

But the planning inspector referred to the area as a “little oasis behind the buildings” and said it “offers a positive element to the setting of the listed buildings”.

Historic England had also voiced concerns: “We would caution against any plans for the redevelopment of the wider site until a viable future for the chapel can be settled upon.”

Local residents had objected to the plan on the grounds of “overdevelopment”, “irrevocable destruction of wildlife” and “inadequate” provision for parking and access to the houses.

One neighbour commented: “Shame on this large back garden infill.”

Another said: “This land is a precious haven for a multitude of wild mammals and birds. To build on it would cause devastating and long-lasting damage and should simply not be allowed to go ahead. Our natural wildlife habitats need protecting or they will be gone forever.”

BCP Council refused the application on grounds including that it would see “loss of land associated with the existing church which is identified as an important community facility”.

It also said: “Insufficient evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that there are no options for the continued use of the church.

“In the absence of such evidence, the loss of this community facility would be detrimental to the viability and sustainability of the area.”

The scheme, by “reason of its scale, design and lack of soft landscaping, would fail to respect and would detract from the setting of the Grade II Listed United Reform Church”, the planner said.

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