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What does the future hold for historic church?
AN historic church, that residents fought to save, may be a step closer to becoming residential accommodation as an offer on the building has been made.
St Laurence’s Church, in Middleton St George, Darlington, officially closed in 2012 after first shutting its doors in 2008 when the building was deemed unsafe.
The Grade II listed building was placed on the market by the Church Commissioners in 2012 and an offer is now under consideration.
The Commissioners have organised a drop-in style public meeting Middleton St George Community Centre on Tuesday (May 13) for people to comment on the next stage of the church’s future.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Durham said that while the closure of the church is not up for reconsideration, proposals for its future use have not been decided.
He added: “The Commissioners under their statutory process must now publish details for the proposed future use of the building, enabling all interested parties to comment.
“This process is part of normal statutory proceedings followed in all cases of closed consecrated church buildings.
"Even if the scheme is accepted and goes to the next stage - the prospective purchaser will also need to obtain the necessary planning and listed building consent from the local authority.”
The spokesman added that letters about the meeting were sent to people who commented on the original closure scheme at the public consultation as well as posted in The Northern Echo and via direct posting of letters to the immediate neighbours.
However, ward councillor and parish council chairwoman, Doris Jones, said that there was some confusion among residents about the purpose of the meeting which she described as a “tick box” exercise.
Coun Jones said: “This village quite happily set up a fundraising scheme to save the church and we are not happy about this situation at all.
“I hope that many people turn up to the meeting, because you ask us what we want and we’ll say ‘we want a church’."
She added: “We are totally bemused here - we don’t know what on earth is going on.
“We are asked our opinion, but only because they have to go through the legal processes to show they have done it, not because they care what we say.”
The meeting will take place at Middleton St George Community Centre from 2pm to 6.45pm and the opportunity to comment in writing will close on June 5.
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