Here's why replacement for Victorian church in Bexhill has been dismissed

A planning inspector has dismissed proposals to demolish a Victorian church building in Bexhill, after finding its replacement would harm the character of the surrounding area.

Artist's impression of the proposed new Bexhill church
Artist's impression of the proposed new Bexhill church

In a decision published on Wednesday (July 26), a planning inspector has dismissed an appeal on plans to demolish The Sanctuary of Beulah Baptist Church in Clifford Road and replace it with a new church building.

According to the church’s trustees, the plans had come forward as the existing Victorian-built structure requires significant ongoing repairs, which are ‘increasingly financially unviable’ to maintain. They said it was also an ‘inflexible space’, making it difficult to provide all the community services the church wanted.

However, the plans had been refused by Rother District Council in November 2020, on the grounds that the demolition of the building would result in a ‘considerable conservation loss’. The council also took issue with the ‘visually unattractive’ design of the new building.

The church disputed this and lodged an appeal seeking to overturn the council’s decision.

In doing so, the church argued that the heritage significance of the building was ‘limited, pointing out that Heritage England had declined to list it.

The inspector agreed with this view, finding that harm from the loss of The Sanctuary would be outweighed by the benefits of creating a new community space. However, the inspector ultimately dismissed the scheme as a result of its design.

In their decision notice, the inspector said: “Although I have found that the loss of The Sanctuary would be acceptable in the light of the benefits of the scheme, the proposal would not be acceptable in terms of its effect on the character and appearance of the area, principally because of its unsympathetic frontage to Clifford Road.

“As a consequence, the development conflicts with the development plan taken as a whole.

“There are no material considerations, including the [National Planning Policy] Framework, which indicate that a decision should be made other than in accordance with the development plan. For the reasons given above, the appeal is therefore dismissed.”

The original plans can be viewed on Rother District Council’s online planning portal at www.rother.gov.uk/planning using code

RR/2020/2418/P.