A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to build a new church in Christchurch has been given the green light.

BCP Council has approved plans by Christchurch Baptist Church to demolish the Victorian building at 51 Bargates and build a new place of worship.

The building is home to offices and the opticians Raxworthy, as well as a car park of approximately 20 spaces, all of which would be lost as part of the scheme.

The church group is currently located at 49 Bargates, a building which church minister the Rev Chris Brockway argues is “no longer fit for purpose”.

BCP Council decided to approve the application at a planning committee meeting on February 16.

Councillors gave eight votes in favour and three against, with one abstention, despite 67 objections from residents and conservation experts.

According to the committee report published ahead of the meeting, objectors' concerns included the proposed development turning the area into a "concrete jungle", with the appearance of the new church being described as "out of keeping" and "inappropriate".

This was addressed by Cllr David Kelsey, who said: “Although some people are saying it’s out of character in that street scene, I travel around the country a lot and I very rarely see a church that’s in keeping with the street.

“Churches are renowned for being totally different to the rest of the street scene.”

Issues were also raised about the loss of the existing site car park and whether it would lead to illegal parking in the area by churchgoers.

An officer’s report argued there were enough parking spaces at nearby public car parks to avoid this happening.

It is the second time that plans for a new building have been submitted by the Christchurch Baptist Church, with the first unanimously rejected by BCP Council in 2020, and then dismissed on appeal.

The latest proposal is said to have been "completely redesigned" to address the concerns raised during the first refusal. The changes include a smaller floor plan, and two storeys rather than three.

Planning officers who had recommended the scheme for approval said it was “far better” than the previous scheme.

Update: An earlier version of this article included a CGI of the initial plans for the site. This has been changed to include the approved plans.