WORK to build a new £1.7m church at the gateway to Emsworth has started.
It was a rocky road for the building to get the green light after Havant Borough Council’s planning committee turned down the proposals for the one-story building for Emsworth Baptist Church three years ago.
The committee members voted three to two against the plans, saying they wanted a more iconic building at the northern entrance to the town centre.
But the church appealed to the government’s planning inspector. After an investigation, the go-ahead was given at the end of 2011.
The building, next to the A259 roundabout in North Street, will include a 200-seat auditorium to be used for church services and community events.
The work is being undertaken by Fareham-based Amiri Construction. It should be finished by June 2015.
The old hall will be used for training sessions by the Fire and Rescue service during demolition.
Grahame Pettit, managing director at Amiri, said he was delighted to be part of the project.
‘It’s very rare that a new-build church project appears in the region and thanks to the great design by the London based architects Haverstock Associates LLP.
‘I’m confident that with its brickwork and zinc roof it will be an excellent addition to the architecture found within Emsworth.
‘The company will be adopting a strict Considerate Construction policy over the next 12 months to minimise disruption whilst people use the existing church for worship and as the church hall.’
There is still unease about the plans, however.
Councillor Brendan Gibb-Gray, who represents Emsworth, abstained from the vote when he was on the planning committee in 2011.
He said: ‘I abstained because I was not happy with the design.
‘I don’t think it’s appropriate for that particular site.
‘It’s not going to look like what it’s intended to be – a church and a concert hall.
‘Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it now.
‘They got their permission on appeal. Yet again it shows the inspectors don’t always take notice of what people think.’
No-one from the church was available for comment.