Brundall church asks congregation to pray for extension plans

The congregation of a Norfolk church has been asked to pray ahead of a planning decision, which will determine whether the medieval building can be extended.

For more than 60 years, the 13th century St Laurence Church in The Street, Brundall, which only has enough space to seat 100 people, has been keen to extend so it can do more for the village.

The church, which is a Grade II* listed building, has asked Broadland District Council for permission to partly demolish the church and to build a new extension so more worshippers can join the congregation.

Permission is also being sought for a meeting area, offices and a new car park, and members of the council's planning committee will meet on Wednesday to decide whether to grant approval.

However, with council officers recommending that the permission is turned down, the congregration is being asked to pray ahead of the meeting.

On the church's website the congregation is asked to set aside 15 minutes the day before the crunch decision will be made 'to pray specifically about the outcome of the planning committee meeting', while the church will also be open for prayer while the planning meeting takes place.

Church rector Rev Dr Linnet Smith said she was disappointed the recommendation was for permission to be refused, but said she remained hopeful.

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She said: 'This means a tremendous amount to us. We are hampered by a shortage of space and that makes it very difficult for us to do lots of the things in the community which we want to do.

'There's a good precedent locally with the hostry at Norwich Cathedral, which is accepted now and fits in very comfortably, but had caused concern before it was built.'

The church wants to demolish the existing north aisle and vestry to form a link with the proposed extension, which will provide a worship area with 180 removable chairs.

A number of graves will need to be relocated to make way for the new 23-metre high building, while a new car park would be created nearby.

The scheme has the support of Brundall Parish Council, while the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings has no comment to make and a number of villagers supported the scheme.

The Ancient Monuments Society said at 'first sight' the proposal invited easy objections, with a larger modern complex next to a listed building,

But they said there was 'a certain poetry in the way that the diminutive form of the ancient building is stressed by the inflated footprint and bulk of the newcomer.'

However, Broadland's conservation officer said the medieval church would be 'relegated to the status of chapel' and 'the current tranquil 'feel' of the churchyard would be lost forever'.

There were also objections from families who were concerned at the scale of the development and the impact of the new car park on neighbours.

Officers are recommending refusal, saying the new building would dwarf the existing church and have an unacceptable impact on it, while the noise from the new car park would have a detrimental effect on nearby homes.

Are you fighting a planning application where you live? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375.