Model to be used in appeal over Devizes church extension

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Tony Scorer, Ida McConnell, Charlie Slater, Stephen Brazier and Paul Morgan look at the model for the cloister they want built at St Mary's Church in Devizes Tony Scorer, Ida McConnell, Charlie Slater, Stephen Brazier and Paul Morgan look at the model for the cloister they want built at St Mary's Church in Devizes

Supporter of a plan to build an extension at St Mary’s Church, Devizes, hope a model will help their case when it is discussed at a planning appeal.

St Mary’s Parochial Church Council members were devastated when Wiltshire Council’s Eastern area planning committee refused permission for a cloister extension at a meeting last October.

The PCC have appealed against the decision and a hearing in front of a Government planning inspector will take place on August 6. The venue has not yet been announced.

The glazed curved cloister extension would accommodate a kitchen, toilets, an office and changing facilities. Having the extension would enable the inside of the church to be used for performances.

The planning committee turned down the extension by four votes to three.

Wiltshire Council planning officers and English Heritage opposed the extension because they believe it would be too big and harm the setting of St Mary’s, which is Grade I listed.

The PCC has commissioned a model of the proposed cloister which will be taken to the appeal hearing.

The Rev Canon Paul Richardson, the rector of St Mary’s, said: “The main reason for appealing is because we think the plans we put in is the best possible option for St Mary’s.

"The impact of the extension on St Mary’s is very small compared with the benefits that it will bring, both to preserve the historical church for the future and also providing great community arts facilities for the town.

“The model that has been produced shows what little impact the cloister extension would have on the setting.

"Without a cloister St Mary’s couldn’t be used as a community arts building and then we are back to the awful discussion of redundancy of St Mary’s.”

The PCC has worked on the plan for five years and it had widespread support from the community.

A series of performances in the church recently, including Jesus Christ Superstar, have been well attended and Mr Richardson said this demonstrated a need for St Mary’s to be available for concerts, but for this to happen the extension was essential.

He said: “Jesus Christ Superstar was close to being sold out every night, 700 people came to watch it.

"The programme of concerts and events at St Mary’s has shown what a good venue it is and how well supported it is.”

The PCC has instructed its architects to develop an alternative planning application which it may submit before the appeal hearing. The application would have minor amendments such as different materials for the extension.

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