PLANS for a new church in the heart of Emsworth have been given the go-ahead by a government inspector.
Earlier this year councillors at Havant Borough Council refused the £2m plans over concerns the design was not befitting of the town’s historic character.
On a vote of three councillors to two, the planning committee said it wanted a more of a landmark building for the gateway to Emsworth.
But Emsworth Baptist Church, in North Street, appealed to the government and an inspector has now upheld the appeal.
Patrick Laycock, chairman of building project group, said: ‘I am absolutely delighted. The inspector’s report really said it all that everything about the design was complementary to the site.’
The new church building will include a 200-seat auditorium – which will be used for church services and also community events.
The chapel, which is separate to the new building and is where services are currently held, will be refurbished and include a hall, offices and toilets.
Mr Laycock said: ’Our congregation has grown over the years.
‘Our church hall is a very old, simple building and is in need of replacement.
‘And Emsworth is need of community facilities. There’s no large venue at all for any kind of events.
‘There are a number of groups that have already expressed an interest in using the building – everything from mother and toddler groups to Girl Guides and elderly organisations.’
But some community leaders were still not convinced by the design.
Emsworth Cllr Brendan Gibb-Gray, who abstained when asked to vote on the planning committee, said: ‘I would have preferred it to be an iconic building in an iconic part of Emsworth.
‘I don’t think the building we have got or are likely to have is iconic.
‘It’s going to be rather pedestrian, rather ordinary and rather bulky.’
But he added it was a personal ‘judgment call’ and many people felt the design was acceptable.
In his report government inspector Andrew Jeyes concluded that the proposals ‘would not harm the character and appearance of the locality’.
Church leaders said building work could start next autumn. More than £500,000 has so far been raised in fundraising to pay for the work.