Fury over decision to demolish historic church for houses

UNDER THREAT The former Congregational Church in Nile Street, Emsworth. Inset, Lorraine Clode
UNDER THREAT The former Congregational Church in Nile Street, Emsworth. Inset, Lorraine Clode

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THE demolition of a 200-year-old former church in a conservation area has caused fury.

People in Emsworth have spoken of their anger after plans to bulldoze the former Congregational Church in Nile Street were approved by Havant Borough Council.

Lorraine Clode

Lorraine Clode

Councillors were divided on whether to allow the former chapel – built in 1808 – to be replaced by two modern semi-detached homes. But a majority vote decided the outcome.

The church was built for worshippers in Georgian times and acted as a school.

But its ecclesiastical and educational use ended in 1929, after which time it was used for light industry, including furniture repairs.

Councillor Michael Wilson, who sits on the planning committee, said: ‘I’m not happy about the demolition of this building at all. It would have an adverse impact on the conservation area to lose it.

‘Okay it’s not listed – but it’s significant. It’s part of the history of Emsworth going back to when it was a chapel.’

Emsworth Cllr Brendan Gibb-Gray told his fellow members: ‘I’m not sure this is a positive contribution to the conservation area.

‘The developer has gone a long way to meet the concerns of residents and others, but I remain unconvinced it’s the best we can get.’

Neighbours also told the meeting at The Plaza that they were concerned about overlooking and loss of light.

The plans, submitted by Havant-based HCG Property Services Ltd, include three-bedroom accommodation over three floors.

Cllr John Smith said: ‘It will add something to Emsworth.

‘I’m greatly in favour of protecting places like Emsworth from bad design and bad buildings. But this is a good design. It will fit in.’

Five councillors voted in favour of development, with two against.

After, Lorraine Clode, chairwoman of Emsworth Residents’ Association, was angry.

She said: ‘I’m very sad to see a piece of Emsworth’s history being wantonly knocked down.

‘It’s one of the very characteristic buildings in the town centre. It’s a travesty – to replace an old building of such historic note for two houses.’

The developer’s report states it would cost between £415,000 and £519,000 to renovate the property.

Their report states: ‘Although it is a relatively old building in Nile Street, very little of its original character and appearance survives.’