PLANS for a "large and unapologetic" new church in Christchurch are being lined up for refusal.

Christchurch Baptist Church wants to demolish the Victorian building at 51 Bargates, currently home to church offices as well as opticians Raxworthy, to make room for the new three-storey place of worship.

However, BCP Council officers are recommending that the scheme be rejected when it comes before the planning board on Thursday.

The application received some 28 objections, but 92 letters of support were submitted.

The church, which has around 300 members, says in its application: "We are currently being held back by our existing buildings which are out of date and no longer fit for purpose for a medium to large church such that CBC has become.

"With its current Victorian building full to capacity, Christchurch Baptist Church intends to create a new, purpose-built church building that will serve the needs of the church for future generations."

In their report, council planning officers say they "wish to support the expansion of this church and community asset".

However, the proposed building is deemed to be too large for the site and out of keeping with the area, and the absence of on-site parking is deemed to be unacceptable.

The church's heritage statement claims its proposal "would be a large and unapologetic building, appropriate for its function as a church and multi-purpose community building".

However, the council's conservation officer said: "It does not appear comfortable within either the Bargates or Beaconsfield Road street scene.

"The split roof form adds to the height and bulkiness of the building.

"The design has no reference to chapel or church architectural traditions, to the existing chapel itself and is not immediately identifiable as a church building."

The design was also dismissed as "bland and unattractive".

On parking, BCP's highways officer said: "There will be an unacceptable increased demand on public parking opportunities in the area removing those parking opportunities for other local businesses and town centre visitors."

Among the letters of support, Sarah Isaac of Walcott Avenue said: "There is so much more this Church family could offer the Christchurch community if there was more space for them.

"The youth work is vital to giving teenage children options outside of the school setting.

"The youth leaders are good role models and with more space the activities could be increased and engage more young people in the community."

Michael Thorn, of Court Close, said: "I am a wheelchair user and the Church we have at the moment is very hard for me to get into.

"The new one will be have full disabled access and will make my life a lot better to attend Church."