Protests over church’s new homes plan

Gosport MP welcomes plans on homelessness but admits ‘it’s a significant problem’

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SAVE our square – that’s the message from campaigners in Lee-on-the-Solent who want to stop a church building homes.

A group of concerned residents and people from the wider area are appealing to the Bishop of Portsmouth over the controversial plans.

Lee Vicarage

Lee Vicarage

The church has permission to build three homes and a vicarage in Victoria Square.

Co-organiser Maurice Bell, a member of St Faith’s congregation, said: ‘The square has been widely recognised as a special area.

‘We see this as an example of church greed, which is a cardinal sin. In the long term the church needs to reverse the loss of membership.

‘We think that this in Lee is not going to help. We’re fighting the church for the benefit of the church.’

The campaigners are angry as they say there was not a big enough consultation and say trees were cut down without any warning. They also said the homes, if built, will be too close to the road.

The residents’ association backs the petition.

It comes after Gosport Borough Council had refused the Diocese of Portsmouth planning permission but that was overturned by a planning inspector.

The campaigners have written to the Bishop of Portsmouth but are angered they have yet to receive a reply.

Mr Bell added: ‘We’re concerned about how people are going to see the church when these buildings, that don’t fit the area, are going to be erected.’

Philip Scott, co-organiser of the Save our Square campaign, said around 200 people had signed the petition.

He said: ‘I don’t think anybody objects to the vicarage being replaced.

‘It needs to be an appropriate design and position.

‘The rest of it is a shame. I would rather there were no other houses here.’

The church said the developer will build the three homes and the vicarage, selling the homes to pay for the vicarage.

Any extra cash over what is needed for the vicarage will go to providing housing for clergy and repairing homes elsewhere.

The Archdeacon of the Meon, the Ven Gavin Collins, said: ‘The diocese wants to provide a high quality new vicarage for the long term.

‘The best way we can do this is by asking a developer to build a vicarage plus three other homes.

‘We’re sorry that the letter to the bishop hadn’t yet been answered, but a response is now on its way.’