A developer has been refused planning permission to knock down a disused church and replace it with flats.
Chameleon Refurbishments wanted to demolish St Andrew’s Church in Wickham Avenue and build a four-storey building with 10 flats plus parking spaces.
It was the third attempt by the developer to knock down the Victorian church, which closed in December 2011.
Two previous applications to Rother District Council (RDC) were withdrawn due to concerns about the loss of a heritage site.
The two previous applications, in 2014 and 2015, proposed to only destroy part of the church, leaving the facade, but both were withdrawn before RDC assessed them as many residents voiced concerns about a range of topics.
But Chameleon Refurbishments, in its latest application, wanted to get rid of the whole church and argued the replacement would make a ‘positive contribution’ to the area’s character and ‘provide much-needed’ housing.
The building, completed in 1900, was designed by architect J.B. Wall, who also constructed the Colonnade.
In a letter to RDC’s planning and building control department in December 2016, Alex Bowring, conservation advisor for The Victorian Society, recommended the application be refused permission.
He said: “The designer of the church was a notable local architect who was responsible for the Egerton Park Estate which the church historically served.
“St Andrew’s is therefore integral to this development as an important public building. That the church is mentioned in the Buildings of England volume ‘Sussex: East’ gives rise to its status as a building of architectural interest. The church is therefore without question a positive contributor to the Bexhill Town Centre Conservation Area.”
A report by RDC’s planning department said: “The proposal would provide benefits in terms of bringing back the presently redundant site into a new use, and increasing the supply of housing. As the proposal would lead to growth, there would be positive outcomes for the economic and social dimensions of sustainable development.
“However, the benefits would not be sufficient to outweigh the substantial harm to the environment, in particular the loss of a non-designated heritage asset, the failure of the proposal to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Bexhill Town Centre Conservation Area, and the harmful effects on the living conditions of the neighbouring occupiers. For these reasons planning permission should be refused.”
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