Plans for town centre church withdrawn

St Andrews Church, Bexhill.
St Andrews Church, Bexhill.

A planning application to demolish a Victorian Bexhill church to build a block of flats has been withdrawn following a number of objections.

Earlier this year an application was submitted to Rother District Council’s (RDC) planning department to demolish the majority of St. Andrew’s Church, Wickham Avenue, and construct a residential block of 12 flats.

A RDC spokesperson confirmed this week that the applicant has withdrawn the current planning application.

The church in Bexhill Town Centre Conservation Area, was designed by the architect J.B Wall and built in 1899-1900, and many residents objected to the application.

East Sussex County Council Highways department also objected to the proposed development stating that it ‘could not provide for adequate parking facilities’ and vehicle access was too narrow.

The Victorian Society objected to the application on the basis of ‘the harm caused to the conservation area’. In a letter to RDC Cathy Clark, Conservation Adviser at the Victorian Society said: “St Andrew’s Church is a small flint church with stone dressings. Its design makes it a distinctive feature of the street, as a focal point like a church would be expected to be, Its character is based on its rather simple, attractive design. Also important is its significance as a building in use by the community for over a century. Its architect, J. B Wall, was also the designer of the listed colonnade in front of the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea’s most famous architectural site. The church is a positive contributor to the Bexhill Town Centre Conservation Area.

“The proposal for St Andrew’s would involve the demolition of the majority of the building, and the replacement of all but the façade with a block of flats with a much greater mass than the existing church. The building would lose the majority of its original fabric, and perhaps more crucially, have its fundamental characteristics changed, essentially ceasing to exist as the same building.”

Ms Clark suggested a revised scheme which reused the building close to its original should be further explored.

Earlier this month a petition signed by 243 residents of Wickham Avenue area, strongly objecting to the proposals, was submitted to RDC. A supporting letter was submitted with the application. Comments included: “The redevelopment of the Church should be done in a manner that is more in keeping with the current structure of this beautiful and historic landmark. We believe current proposals will detrimentally impact parking in the area already notoriously difficult. Opening access to the rear of our properties will increase the threat of crime in the neighbourhood. We feel that cramming 12 flats into such a small area is a mistake that, if allowed to go ahead, would be to the detriment of the community.”