PLANNING chiefs are being urged to approve a new security system which aims to protect a historic New Forest church from vandals.

Members of St Mary Magdalene in Church Lane, New Milton, are seeking consent to install CCTV cameras and place stainless steel grilles over two windows either side of the entrance.

It follows an incident in which vandals targeted one of the windows, causing "unsightly and depressing" damage.

The applicants admit the proposed security system would harm the appearance of the Grade II-listed building but say the benefits would outweigh the disadvantages.

St Mary Magdalene, part of which dates from the 17th century, is the only listed structure in the Old Milton Green Conservation Area.

A heritage statement which forms part of the planning application describes the ancient place of worship as "one of the more significant buildings in the area".

The statement says the proposed window grilles are the "most unobtrusive" option.

It adds: "There will be some harm in placing CCTV cameras where they can be seen but benefits of the cameras will clearly outweigh the harm by protecting the buildings.

"The outward appearance of the church will not alter significantly if wiring routes and camera positions are sympathetically considered."

New Forest District Council's initial assessment of the application says: "The CCTV system would comprise four cameras positioned in order to achieve maximum visibility around the building.

"The wire mesh protection is proposed to be fitted to the two windows either side of the main entrance and is intended to offer protection from vandalism.

"The applicant acknowledges that some harm will arise from both elements of the scheme but feels the harm would be outweighed by the benefits of protecting the building.

"The main issue is the visual impact of the cameras and mesh on the listed building, the conservation area and the wider area."

Council chiefs are due to determine the application by the end of this month. The deadline for public comments is January 12.

Asked about the recent vandalism the Rev Andrew Bailey, vicar of St Mary Magdalene, said deliberate damage to a much-loved church was "disappointing and regrettable".

Last year a car window was smashed after youths interrupted a thanksgiving service by banging on the church windows.

The culprit threw a stone at one of the vehicles parked outside the building after the group was criticised for disturbing the service.


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