PLANS to demolish and rebuild a Catholic church and a community centre in Bidford has divided residents.
The application, submitted to Stratford District Council by parish priest Father Garry Byrne and which is under consultation, aims to accommodate the growing Catholic community. It includes to demolish and rebuild St Joseph’s the Worker, integrate community facilities, car parking and two new houses including a replacement presbytery.
But some residents have highlighted concerns particularly around traffic choked country lanes and the risk to drivers and pedestrians.
They say car parking had already caused issues for both church-goers and residents in the church’s surrounds at the end of Quinney’s Lane.
One resident said: “Prior to lockdown, the car park was consistently over capacity so much so that there was a planning application submitted for temporary parking.
“There use to be well in excess of 40 cars parked in and around the church car park. causing access problems for the residents as they had a tendency to block the road and park on private parking areas. On a number of occasions the service had to be interrupted to get the vehicles moved to allow vehicles to come into and out of the close.”
According to the resident, a parking marshal was eventually employed to mitigate the issues.
As well as parking, there are many concerns around the increased traffic using the narrow road leading to the church – a popular cut through for dog-walkers – which includes blind bends or ‘accident blackspots’ and a lack of passing places.
Other concerns include a loss of green space where it is proposed to extend car parking provision and where there may be a loss of grass verges to widen the road to create room for vehicles to manouevre – a suggestion made by highways planning officers.
Villagers believe the move is at odds with national planning policy framework around green spaces.
Some also believe the site is being over-developed and say there is no need for a community centre, claiming there are a number of nearby venues to serve this purpose.
However, others have shown support for the application citing reasons including accommodating the growing community, the improved look of the church and a need for meeting facilities.
According to the church, the current building was never meant to be permanent place of worship and the plans aim to meet a lack of ammenities and unite individuals they claim are isolated.
Canon Garry Byrne said: “We are aware the proposal has generated a lot of interest in the local community.
“We acknowledge there have been some concerns raised about specific aspects of the proposal and these are being reviewed to see what might need to be clarified as part of the proposal.
“It is also pleasing that there have been a number of letters of support from local residents that recognise the importance of the proposal for the life of the village.
“The parish remains fully committed to working with the local authority and local residents to provide a church and meeting place that all in the village can appreciate and be proud of.”
Comments in response to the ongoing consultation should be submitted by Wednesday March 9 on the Stratford District Council website under planning reference 21/02926/FUL.
A decision will be considered at the end of the month.