£4m Locks Heath church extension thrown out by Fareham Borough Council planning committee

Plans to turn former Portsmouth GP practice into flats approved

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CHURCH leaders say they will appeal after their plans for a massive £4.2m extension were thrown out.

Nine members of Fareham Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected Locks Heath Free Church’s scheme.

The church, which has been in its current building in Hunts Pond Road, Titchfield Common, for 23 years, wants to expand into a new building which would hold a 500-seat auditorium, as well as meeting rooms and a cafe.

Fareham’s planning officers had recommended approval of the scheme.

But many councillors on the committee dubbed the new building a ‘conference centre’ and were unhappy with the proposed parking arrangements.

The plans included 88 parking spaces on site, and a further 136 in an overflow car park 130yds to the south.

Speaking afterwards, the church’s senior minister Mark Madavan said: ‘It is very frustrating.

‘We had very positive meetings with the officers, and we will appeal.

‘I think there are lots of grounds for appeal from what I heard in there.

‘We have invested £120,000 in these plans already, so we’re not about to give up.’

Cllr David Swanbrow said: ‘Let’s face it, it is a 500-seat conference facility.

‘You would need an awful lot more parking than this, and it would need to be adjacent to the building.’

Cllr Connie Hockley added: ‘I have a great deal of sympathy with the Free Church wanting to expand, I know from experience what a wonderful job they do.

‘However, I’m really concerned about the parking.

‘At weekends when the football is on, and the church is on, and people are out in their allotments, I don’t think there’s going to be enough parking.’

Forty eight letters and a 242-name petition objecting to the plans were sent to the council.

Many objected on the grounds that the building would be too large and out of character with the surrounding area.

They also said the provision for parking would be inadequate, forcing church-goers to park on already congested streets in the vicinity.

But 323 letters were also sent in to Fareham council supporting the church’s proposals.