Church demolition - public enquiry?

w3361c615 Stanley St Peters Church for 'then and now' feature.
w3361c615 Stanley St Peters Church for 'then and now' feature.

A PUBLIC inquiry could be called into controversial plans to knock down a historic church in Stanley.

Church of England bosses upheld a decision to demolish St Peter’s Church last week after objections were raised by action groups and heritage organisations.

Eric Pickles MP: Secretary of State Communities and Local Government, pictured leaving Wakefield's town hall.'w8215d212

Eric Pickles MP: Secretary of State Communities and Local Government, pictured leaving Wakefield's town hall.'w8215d212

The church has stood empty for 10 years and the Wakefield Diocese drew up plans for its demolition.

The church of England Commissioners ruled that the proposal could go ahead, despite a petition of 127 names and 24 representations against the plan.

But two national organisations, the Victorian Society and Ancient Monuments Society, have the power to force it to be referred to Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, who could order a public inquiry.

The Victorian Society confirmed it would object. Tom Ashley, its church conservation advisor, said: “We are going to sustain our objection. It’s a major landmark and very fine, architecturally speaking.”

The Ancient Monuments Society was meeting today to decide whether to object.

Secretary Matthew Saunders said: “It’s certainly a major building which would be a serious loss.

“We need somebody with business sense and courage to take on the building for conversion. That’s the key.”

The diocese has pledged to install a memorial at the site should the church be demolished.

It said in a statement: “Local  identity and local loyalties are very important and it has been very moving to read the representations from those both for and against this proposal.

“The diocese is determined to work together with the church and parish to ensure that a worthy memorial is left on the site of the church building for all to see and to share and to make sure we not only look forward to the future but also honour the past.”