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Birch church demolition plans slammed by campaigner

Plans to demolish a disused Grade II-listed church have been described as "cultural vandalism" by a campaigner hoping to save it.

St Peter and St Paul's Church in Birch is expected to be torn down and replaced with a memorial garden. Photo: Geograph

St Peter and St Paul's Church in Birch, in Essex, was built circa 1850 but closed in 1990.

The Diocese of Chelmsford said it was with "considerable disappointment" that a lack of funds meant it would be knocked down.

Green issues campaigner Mark Goacher said the demolition was "disgusting".

The diocese plans to replace the church with a memorial garden.

However, environmental campaigner Mr Goacher, a history lecturer at The Sixth Form College, Colchester, said if there were similar plans to demolish a listed building in the centre of Colchester "there'd be uproar", but as this was a rural area, the reaction was "much more subdued".

"I do think it's disgusting," he told BBC Essex.

"The Church of England just doesn't act as a good custodian of our historic buildings."

He added: "Churches like this need to be... community hubs - centres of village activity - they should be at the heart of the community."

In a tweet, he wrote: "The upcoming demolition of Birch Church is cultural vandalism... The Church Of England is very wealthy and should be using that wealth to look after our heritage buildings."

Julie Young, the Labour Colchester Borough councillor for Greenstead, said she had been baptised at the Birch church, was a member of the choir, and was married at the church. Members of her family are also buried in the church graveyard.

She said people had been trying to raise money for repairs to the church for 50 years but "it wasn't possible to raise what was needed to do those repairs".

"I will be very sad not to see that spire on the landscape but the memorial garden will at least be something."

'Considerable regret'

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Chelmsford said: "We have worked closely with the local community and the church commissioners for more than three decades to find alternative uses for St Peter and St Paul's Church in Birch.

"A number of solutions were put forward during this period and it is a cause of considerable disappointment for the diocese that none of these solutions was ultimately feasible.

"Unfortunately the Diocese of Chelmsford does not have anything like the funds needed to carry out such a large scale restoration."

A spokesperson for Colchester City Council said: "With great reluctance and considerable regret, the council decided not to oppose plans by the church commissioners to demolish St Peter's.

"This was not a decision taken lightly, because we are committed to celebrating the history of Colchester and had worked for many years with the owners to find an alternative use for the building that would preserve its historic integrity and important role as a landmark."


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