FRESH attempts are being made to demolish a 'financially draining' community building which is leaving one of the region’s largest churches at risk.

Two separate applications have been lodged to build either six or four new homes on land currently occupied by St Peter’s Parish Church Centre building in Chapel Road, Ashley Cross.

Having been backed by the landowner and church vicar, previous six-home plans were refused in November by BCP Council planners who feared overdevelopment.

They felt no evidence had been provided showing the supposed decline of the church hall.

The hall itself, a short distance from the main church, has been used as a community space since the mid-1970s, but dwindling use and rising costs have led to its decline in recent years.

Bournemouth Echo: St Peter's Church Centre in Chapel Road.St Peter's Church Centre in Chapel Road. (Image: Google)

Clive Balaam has been a churchwarden at St Peter’s for ten years and said he has rarely ever used the church centre.

“The centre is no longer financially viable,” he said.

“It needs much renovation and modernisation and, as it is not fully hired out, it is running at a loss. This puts a considerable strain on the church’s limited funds. Should the building not be sold it will probably have to be demolished as the church is no longer able to afford its upkeep.

“The groups which currently do use the centre can be easily accommodated within the church.”

While others have commented in support of the proposal, others have objected.

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

Resident Richard Alders said: “The number of houses proposed for this development is another example of town cramming, rabbit hutch size houses that were left back in the 80s we thought.

“The developer knows this and is chancing his arm at six but will probably settle for less.”

In planning documents, Reverend Mike Trotman said: “With a declining and increasingly elderly congregation, it is my calling to help secure a viable future for St Peter’s Church, and I fully believe that this can only happen through the proposed residential redevelopment of the church hall, made achievable with the sale proceeds.

“Other churches have undertaken similar reordering schemes, which has produced amazing community facilities to the benefit of the local population.”

All the proceeds of the proposed sale of the building will be spent on a major church refurbishment project, allowing St Peter’s Church to also become a multi-purpose arts venue and community hub – negating the loss of the church centre.