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Church to learn within six weeks if £920,000 hall must be demolished

PUBLISHED: 16:04 13 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:06 13 November 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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A methodist church which built its new hall in the wrong place is within six weeks of learning whether it will have to be demolished.

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

Earlier this year, Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church was ordered by Norwich City Council to knock down its £920,000 hall, after building its extension 4.5m closer to homes on Old School Close than it should have been.

The church, which has a regular congregation of 160 people, saw an enforcement notice served against it by the council after neighbours noticed the distance between the hall and its boundary was incorrect.

However, in June church bosses launched a formal appeal against the enforcement notice with the Planning Inspectorate, which could save them from having to knock it down.

And this week the appeal reached a crucial stage, with a planning inspector visiting the site to assess the situation ahead of reaching a decision in the coming weeks.

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

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With the appeal now in its latter stages, evidence from all interested parties has now been gathered in writing and a spokesman for the Planning Inspectorate said a decision could be expected within six weeks.

Speaking in June, Catherine Hutton, superintendent minister for the Norwich Methodist Church, 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 church hall was given planning permission in 2016 and was built after members of the congregation dug into 
their own pockets to help fund it.

However, the city council refused a retrospective planning application to keep the hall where it is earlier this year and has argued the position is "considered dangerous".

And City Hall is hoping a case involving - of all people - US president Donald Trump - could provide a precedent to uphold the enforcement.

If the appeal is unsuccessful the church will be required to either demolish the hall's gable end and replace it with a hipped gable or knock down the whole building.

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