Durrington Roman Catholic ChurchAN air of sadness hangs over the Roman Catholic community in Durrington as churchgoers see their 43-year-old church boarded up and for sale on the open market.

Despite pleas to the Clifton Diocese to reconsider its sale, the distinctive Our Lady Queen of Heaven church is in the hands of estate agents Myddelton and Major at £150,000 - a price that has already attracted interest from potential new owners.

This week a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Clifton Diocese - whose area covers Durrington, Amesbury, Salisbury and Tisbury - said because of its condition the Diocesan Trustees were unable to insure the building for public use.

Tom Bigwood, communications officer for the diocese, said: "The cost of work to the building has been estimated as beyond the resources of the regular congregation of between 30 and 40 people each weekend.

"Because of this and the proximity of other Catholic churches to Durrington within the Salisbury Deanery, the decision was regretfully taken to close the church.

"It was not an easy decision to make knowing that it would sadden a number of people."

One church member who is deeply saddened is Joyce Smith, who lives in Charles Road and has been a member of the Roman Catholic community in Durrington all her life.

Mrs Smith said the community fought to get their own church in the 1960s and it was the local community that raised the money to have it built.

She said: "The Durrington church has always been appreciated by the parishioners of Durrington.

"I am upset because the diocese just told us our church was closing, giving us no choice and no say in the matter.

"We don't know why. We have a priest covering Durrington and Amesbury and a supportive congregation.

"Closing our church means we will have to travel to Larkhill or Amesbury. Before we had our own church we had to go somewhere else and now it seems the clocks are going back in time.

"I have been a member of the Roman Catholic community all my life and I love our church."

Joe Flanagan, who lives in Haywain, Amesbury, is also upset that the church is closing and has written several times to the Clifton Diocese objecting to the closure.

Mr Flanagan, who attends Christ the King church in Amesbury said Our Lady Queen of Heaven was a branch of the Amesbury church and was built by the people living on Salisbury Plain.

Mr Flanagan said: "It is terrible. There was no consultation with the Roman Catholic community and no offer to give the church back to the community who raised the funds to build it.

"I feel very upset about it. It has been handled all wrong and it is very upsetting for a lot of people."

But, John Haywood, treasurer of the Amesbury church that is responsible for the funding for Durrington church, said the Clifton Diocese had taken the decision because of a shortage of priests, a steady reduction in the size of the congregation and the cost of repairs that were needed.

He said there were three other Roman Catholic churches in the vicinity - Bulford, Larkhill and Amesbury.

He said the number of priests in the Salisbury area had fallen from seven to five and there was a need to reduce the centres for Mass as well.

Mr Haywood said: "It was decided that as Durrington church is a chapel of convenience with an attendance of between 30 and 40 a week, it should cease as a centre for Mass.

"The congregation was told about a surveyor's report which listed work that needed doing and I don't think the church is sustainable."

A spokesman for selling agents Myddelton and Major, said the church is being sold with its current use as a Class D1 property.

He said response had been good with one local community group expressing an interest in acquiring the church for possible community use.