PLANS to demolish a ‘financially unviable’ church hall in favour of new homes have been refused.

Despite a demolition notice being issued, proposals to replace the St Peter’s Parish Church Centre building in Chapel Road, Ashley Cross, with six new houses was refused by BCP Council amid overdevelopment fears and other concerns.

Backed by the landowner and church vicar, the plans were submitted in September last year after applicant Ashdrew Homes negotiated an option to purchase the land from owner Parochial Church Council.

The hall has been used as a community space since its erection in the mid-1970s, but supposed dwindling use and rising costs have led to its decline in recent years.

Bournemouth Echo: The hall at St Peter's Church CentreThe hall at St Peter's Church Centre (Image: Darryl Howells)

All the proceeds of the proposed sale would have been spent on a major refurbishment project of the nearby St Peter’s Church which planners say would have replaced the church centre as a community hub.

However, council planning officers said this was “not feasible” given the extensive works required at the main church and the fact such refurbishments were not outlined in the application.

In her report, case officer Sophie Burch said: “Whilst activities that take place in the church hall would be relocated and accommodated within St Peters Church itself, it is quite clear from the submission that this is not currently feasible, and that significant changes need to be made to the church in order for this to happen.

“As the changes to the church rely on the sale of the church hall site, the two are integrally linked.

Bournemouth Echo: St Peter's Parkstone Parish ChurchSt Peter's Parkstone Parish Church (Image: Google)

“However, there is no mechanism possible for the Local Planning Authority to ensure that the changes required actually occur to enhance the church as an improved community facility, as they do not form part of the current planning application. Therefore, it is not possible to secure that the planned improvements to St Peters Church act as a community benefit to outweigh the loss of the community facility.”

Officers also said no evidence had been provided relating to the supposed decline of the church hall.

Despite the plans being refused by council officers in November, a demolition notice outside the church centre was made in mid-December. The notice states demolition work is proposed to begin on June 4.

Reverend Mike Trotman said: “St Peter’s is committed to this project and hopes to comprehensively address the council’s concerns with supporting evidence in due course.”