Portchester community divided over plans to expand church site

St Mary's in Portchester
St Mary's in Portchester
An aerial view of the Solent airfield. Picture by Shaun Roster

IFA2 project takes another step as planning approved

  • Portchester church to expand under renovation plans
  • Community divided over the proposals
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A CHURCH has divided community opinion over its plans to expand – with fears raised that graves could be built over.

St Mary’s Church in Castle Street, Portchester, has embarked on a two-stage project to refurbish the building in a bid to provide more space and facilities.

We want the church to be warm for families and young people. We are a growing congregation and need to expand to have meetings, extra facilities and Sunday groups.

Ian Meredith, reverend at St Mary’s

But some residents have expressed concern over the major renovation plans, which will include a new building and underfloor heating.

While the new heating system will be welcomed to the church, the second phase of the project, which is yet to get planning permission, has come under criticism.

The second stage will see the demolition of the church room, which will give way to a new three-storey building to house three meeting rooms and an education and heritage centre.

The Rev Ian Meredith from St Mary’s said: ‘The advantages are obviously that we want the church to be warm for families and young people. We are a growing congregation and need to expand to have meetings, extra facilities and Sunday groups.’

But there is concern where the new development will be built as residents have reported that some graves were built over when the Tea Rooms were built in 1974.

Julie Sexton, 57, who grew up in Portchester said: ‘I was concerned because the last time they did an extension they covered over my grandfather’s grave.’

Mr Meredith said: ‘This a national problem that the church has to recognise.

‘On the one hand we do respect the graves and they are not built over lightly however there is the living church which needs to expand. Where the new building is going to be in the future, we can’t see any graves that are currently maintained.

‘Most of them have crumbled and look uncared for. It’s fair to say this is the majority but any which are still cared for or are in living memory we would want to do some sort of sympathetic memorial within the new building.’

Residents are already worried about potential building developments in Portchester after the site at Seafield Road was cleared to make way for a prospective 55-home estate on the former allotments site due to fears over wildlife habitats.