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Church leaders defend new survey of closed church
CHURCH leaders have moved to quell speculation about the future of a church closed because of structural problems, after a parish council questioned the need for a new survey of its condition.
St Laurence’s Church, in Middleton St George, was officially closed for worship by the Church Commissioners earlier this year after a four year battle by local people to keep it open.
The church has been closed since 2008 because of structural difficulties, which, it was claimed, will cost £824,359 to repair.
The church is now up for sale but, after hearing that a new condition survey on the building had been carried out, members of Middleton St George Parish Council questioned why it had been done after the church had been deemed too badly damaged to save and closed.
The council has previously argued that they were not given details of what was needed to repair the church and claim they had asked for a condition survey to determine whether the village would be able to fundraise to save it.
That accusation has been rejected by the Church Commissioners, who said several surveys had been carried out during the closure process, all of which had been made available to the parish council.
Parish chairman Doris Jones said: “If they can get a survey and a quote for repairs to put it up for sale, they could have done that for us. We could have fundraised to keep it open but they just didn’t want that.
“What we wanted was to get a genuine quotation for the works – if had turned out to be too expensive then fine, but we wanted the option.”
In response, Ross Brazier, planning officer for closed churches with the Church Commissioners, said: “In order to provide as much information as possible to anyone interested in taking over the building, the Diocese instructed an update of the existing structural survey to identify those structural issues that would need to be addressed in order to facilitate a new use within the building.”
The Venerable Nick Barker, Archdeacon of Auckland, said: “I am aware that some members of the community have voiced surprise, believing that this should have been done before the decision to formally close the church was made.
“This information was of course available earlier and commented on by those objecting to the closure of the church. The parish had several reports on the condition of the building to firstly identify the structural problems that were causing concern and secondly to identify remedial measures to those problems.
“Once a suitable use has been identified for St Laurence’s there will be a public consultation process allowing people to comment on the proposed use. Any objections will once again be heard and taken into consideration before any decision about the future of the building is made.”