Unholy row over £6,000 church loo move order

By Chris Were   |   Reporter   |
Thursday 30th June 2022 11:00 am
@ChrsWr
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A PLANNING dispute over a toilet has left parishioners of a Grade II listed church frustrated.

St Matthew’s at Brelston Green near Goodrich was urgently in need of extensive repairs and is on the Historic England “at risk” register.

Plans were in place to completely repair the church and at the same time create a community meeting space in the nave and provide an accessible WC in the churchyard.

However, due to difficulties in the planning process, the new developments are under threat.

Plans for the churchyard WC was submitted to the Herefordshire Planning Department in 2018.

But due to an administrative error, temporary, rather than full planning was requested, which was given until March 2021.

Raising money for the works has been a gruelling process; three bids were made to the Lottery Heritage Fund, and whilst the first two bids did not yield results, the third successfully brought in £115,000, towards the total cost of £179,000.

The rest of the funds were raised by external charitable grants.

Work had started on the WC and were continued on the expectation that acquiring full planning permission wasn’t going to be a problem.

However, the planning request was turned down, mainly due to the objections of the buildings conservation officer who requested a different location.

Works were completed in 2019, before the church and community space had to be closed during the pandemic.

A second permanent planning appeal submission was sent to the planning department in July 2021, which was also shot down.

It is estimated that moving the WC will cost around £6,000 which the church cannot afford.

Parishioners don’t agree with the reasons given for refusal and are now mounting a campaign to overturn the decision.

They believe the current site of the WC poses very little visual impact.

Screening hedging has been planted around three sides of the loo and is being cared for by the parochial church council.

The WC is suitable for disabled visitors and the tarmac path is level to allow everyone to enter without difficulty.

Fears amongst the parishioners is that the WC could be lost to the planning decision, with no funds to build a new one.

Churchwarden Phyll Hannah told the Gazette: “To imagine that a community hub can be of use to anyone, without a toilet in 2022 is ridiculous.

“How can a small community be expected to find £6,000 to move a toilet less than 10 yards on the whim of one person?”

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