Go-ahead for plans that will “adversely affect” character of part of St Mark’s church in Bilton

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CONSERVATION groups opposed to a planned face-lift for a Grade II listed St Mark’s church in Bilton have failed to block the scheme.

A Church of England judge has given the go-ahead for the installation of a new mezzanine floor to provide extra room for young worshippers - despite claims that it will remove the sense of space and openness and block views of stained glass windows.

Stephen Eyre, chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry and a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court, has granted permission, for the £245,000 work at St Mark church, Bilton, which will provide an area where its growing number of children can meet during services.

The mezzanine floor will be built in the north aisle of the Grade II listed church, and will transect the two stained glass windows, dividing the lower third of each from the upper two thirds.

Conservation bodies including the Victorian Society and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings had argued against the proposal, and the judge recognised that there would “undoubtedly be a loss of a sense of space and openness” and that the mezzanine would “prevent the stained glass windows from being seen in their entirety”.

However, he said that the church was “blessed” by growing numbers of children and young people, and that the mezzanine would “create a space where the young people can meet during the service with that space being divisible and distinct from the body of the congregation while being sufficiently close for the young people to be easily integrated into the body of the service”.

Granting permission, he said: “It is clear that the proposed mezzanine floor would have a significant impact on the north aisle and would adversely affect its character. The floor would not be unsightly in itself but it would change the character of the north aisle markedly reducing the appearance and feeling of space. In addition there would be a considerable impact on the stained glass windows in the north aisle.”

However, he continued: “There is a real need for additional accommodation in the church. The accommodation proposed will admirably meet that need providing suitable accommodation for a large number of those young people.

“I have concluded that the need for the mezzanine floor and the other factors in favour of the installation are of sufficient weight to justify the grant of the faculty notwithstanding the impact on the character of the north aisle and on the visibility of the windows.”

He ordered that the works cannot proceed until the rector and the churchwardens can demonstrate that they have 70 per cent of the funds - £171,500 – available.