A FORMER villager is outraged at the proposed re-ordering of the village church.

Helen Clinkard, a former magistrate, has described the re-ordering of the St Andrew's Church in Okeford Fitzpaine as "awful" and has avidly campaigned against it.

The church, which was built during the reign of Edward I, is set to undergo some major changes in the coming weeks, which includes the removal and selling of pews and moving the font.

Since 2016, there have been suggestions of making changes to the church, which have so far included fitting a toilet and a kitchen.

This pleased villagers and church-goers including Helen, but the selling of the church pews has upset many people.

Helen, who now lives on the Isle of Wight, said: "My family has been in the village for generations. The church is selling off Victorian and a few Jacobian pews until August 7 to add in moveable chairs which is quite awful, frankly. It's gone from adding a toilet and a kitchen to gutting out the whole church."

The decision involved a four year legal process and wide consultation that was undertaken by the Parochial Church Council before they gained permission for the re-ordering of St Andrew's Church.

This process, according to the Diocese of Salisbury, included a leaflet delivered to every household and a public meeting.

Helen disputes this, stating that residents of the village were not informed of the abrupt changes set to be made.

She said: "My research shows that villagers didn't know about this. A notice was put in the village news booklet by the vicar in October 2019 but that booklet has to be purchased, so lots of the villagers still didn't know. My argument is that the majority of villagers had no idea that it was happening.

"You can’t pass something people don’t know about."

The Bishop of Salisbury has replied to those who wrote to him complaining about aspects of the proposed re-ordering of St Andrew's Church.

In a statement issued on July 20, Bishop Nicholas said: "Churches are community buildings which have to adapt to the needs of the community as those needs change. The changes have come after a very wide consultation and ample opportunity over a long period to comment on the proposals."

The Diocese of Salisbury have also stated that villagers were invited to have their say and that regular reports were made to the Parish Council at all key stages of the reordering process, minutes of which are in the public domain.

Helen added: "If I have to stand up and fight for this then I will. It’s not fair for the people of the village."