Row over plans to sell church and tree thought to be the ‘Poringland Oak’

The Poringland Oak 1818-20 John Crome

The Poringland Oak 1818-20 John Crome - Credit: Archant

A row has erupted in Poringland after a charity unveiled plans to sell off a church believed to be on the site of a scene depicted in a 19th-century painting.

The move to sell what was once known as Poringland Evangelical Free Church has angered some villagers who want to see the land kept for the use of the community.

They have also raised some concerns that a historic oak tree on the site could be damaged by the plan to demolish the existing building in Carr Lane and replace it with a house and a garage.

It is thought that the tree, which is covered by a preservation order, could be the one which featured in John Crome's painting, The Poringland Oak, which is owned by the Tate gallery.

Opponents maintain the land was given to the village in 1966 by Ernie and Ella Brookes for 'the worshipful purposes of the people of Poringland in perpetuity', and while current pastor Rod Smith said he was told this was the case when he became a trustee there was nothing in writing to back this up and no such covenant was on the land.

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He said the building, which was once known as the Wellspring Church, was no longer used for regular Sunday worship and had been used as a charity shop, but proceeds had dwindled recently and the sale of the land would be used to support the GloryTribe charity's work supporting an orphanage in Kenya.

Villager Phil Ginn said: 'Hundreds of new homes are being built in Poringland and we need the facilities of this community asset.'

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Villagers are invited to attend a meeting about the proposed sale from 10am to midday today at the village hall.

Poringland Parish Council is also due to discuss the outline planning application at a meeting at 7pm tonight at Poringland Community Centre.

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