Church facelift moves a step closer

The church in Longthorpe

The church in Longthorpe

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A revamp of one of Peterborough’s oldest churches took another step forward after a church judge gave it the green light.

The £286,000 proposals for Longthorpe Church would see pews taken out and replaced with individual chairs, a new self-standing altar, replacement of the pulpit with a specially designed lectern, lowering of part of the church floor, moving the font and removal of some panelling.

Historic England, ChurchCare, the Victorian Society and Twentieth Century Society raised a string of objections to the plans.

However, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Peterborough, David Pittaway QC, in his role as a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court has over-ridden the objections and granted permission for the changes.

The Victorian Society spearheaded the opposition before Chancellor Pittaway.

But, granting permission for the plans for the Grade I listed church this week, he said that he did not recognise the “serious concerns” raised, particularly by the Victorian Society, and considered them to be “exaggerated.”

He said: “I am satisfied that the reordering is part of an overall holistic scheme for a thriving church community, which will be a major public benefit outweighing any harm.”

The church was built in the 13th century, but much of the interior dates to Victorian times.

The Victorian Society, which led the objections said their committee had been “shocked” by the plans and branded them as a “radically insensitive scheme which, in effect gutted the church of its historic interior.”

In Parliament, Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson also raised concerns about the plans, and said: “May we have a debate on protecting and valuing the Church of England estate? We learned this week that the Church of England’s consistory court and the chancellor of the diocese of Peterborough have given the green light to ripping out the interior of the grade I listed, 13th-century St Botolph’s church in Longthorpe, Peterborough. That will include replacing the altar with a self-standing altar and the pulpit with a modern lectern, and ripping out all the pews. Is it any wonder that the Church of England is losing the support of its parishioners when it so grievously fails to protect its own architectural heritage?”

They and other objectors have three weeks to appeal against the decision made by Chancellor Pittaway.