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Council could force church to tear down new £920,000 hall funded by congregation

PUBLISHED: 06:30 26 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:18 27 June 2019

Pastor Edmond Tsui outside the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church. Photo: Luke Powell

Pastor Edmond Tsui outside the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church. Photo: Luke Powell

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Church leaders say they will be "heartbroken" if the council forces them to tear down a £920,000 community hall partly funded by its congregation.

The opening of the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church hall in October 2018. The city's lord mayor for 2018/19, attended the event. Photo: Bowthorpe Road Methodist ChurchThe opening of the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church hall in October 2018. The city's lord mayor for 2018/19, attended the event. Photo: Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church

Norwich City Council served an enforcement notice against Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church after its new extension was built 4.5m closer to homes on Old School Close than it should have been.

The church, which has a regular congregation of 160 people, appealed the notice this month, but could be required to demolish the building if it is unsuccessful.

Catherine Hutton, superintendent minister for the Norwich Methodist Circuit, said: "We noticed there is a distinct lack of community buildings in the area, and the hall was erected to fill that gap while also providing a place of worship.

"It will be heartbreaking if we have to take it down. It will be a real loss to the community and the church as we have not yet been able to realise its potential."

The side of the church's new hall, which cost £920,000. Photo: Luke PowellThe side of the church's new hall, which cost £920,000. Photo: Luke Powell

The council granted the church planning permission in 2016 to demolish the former church hall and build a new one on the site.

But an enforcement investigation was triggered after neighbours noticed the distance between the hall and its boundary was not correct.

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City Hall officers found the originally approved site layout plan had been drawn incorrectly.

The back of the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church, which the council says is too close to the site boundary. Photo: Luke PowellThe back of the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church, which the council says is too close to the site boundary. Photo: Luke Powell

While the church maintains it built the hall in the correct location, it lodged a new application seeking permission for where it had been built.

But that application was turned down when members of Norwich City Council's planning committee met in July last year.

The city council claims the building is now too close the site boundary and is "considered dangerous".

A council spokesman said: "An enforcement notice has been served and requires either the demolition of the gable end of the church and replacement with a hipped gable or demolition of the entire church."

The opening of the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church hall in October 2018. The city's lord mayor for 2018/19, attended the event. Photo: Bowthorpe Road Methodist ChurchThe opening of the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church hall in October 2018. The city's lord mayor for 2018/19, attended the event. Photo: Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church

Edmond Tsui, church pastor, said the congregation raised £300,000 for the hall, while the rest was funded through charity donations and the methodist circuit.

He said the hall was not just for the church, but for the community to use.

The church serves a mixed congregation of Chinese and English-speaking Christians, who were previously based at Sprowston Methodist Church.

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