Plans to rebuild fire damaged Carleton Rode church

A large step towards rebuilding a fire-ravaged south Norfolk church has been taken after plans were submitted to rejuvenate the damaged rooms.

The congregation of Carleton Rode Baptist Church are crossing their fingers that the application will be approved, which includes a new office, kitchen and community rooms, in the hope this will be the last Christmas they will have to worship in other venues.

The 18th century church's school room and storage area were gutted and its actual chapel smoke-damaged in a fire in June 2009, displacing local worshippers and a newly formed youth club.

Although the youth club has moved back in and evening services have been able to take place at the Chapel Road church since last January, morning services are still being conducted in village halls in Carleton Rode and Bunwell.

Now, thanks to insurance money and �30,000 donated by congregation members, church officials have been able to put forward plans to bring the church back to life. The project is expected to cost about �150,000.

Proposals include new toilets, a replacement staircase, a kitchen and open plan lounge, an office, new seating, glazing and a patio area.

Pastor of the church, the Rev Mark Taylor, said it was 'very exciting' to finally be on the way to seeing the historic building being fully used again. He said: 'The fire 18 months ago was quite devastating. Lots of people were very upset by it and the village was disturbed that it took place.'

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If given the go-ahead, building work could be completed by the end of next year – just in time to celebrate the church's 200th anniversary in 2012.

Comments on the proposals should be made to South Norfolk Council by January 12.