Church re­vamp bid a ‘God­send’

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by James Scott js­cott@thek­m­group.co.uk

VICAR Colin Preece has de­scribed the op­por­tu­nity to re­fur­bish Ash­ford’s parish church as an act of God.

He was speak­ing at an open court hear­ing last Fri­day to con­sider plans for a ma­jor re­vamp for St Mary the Vir­gin.

Cam­paigner Chris Cooper, who is op­posed to the £1.3 mil­lion project, de­scribed re­order­ing the church to cre­ate a multi-use space for com­mu­nity mu­sic, art and drama as a quick-fix so­lu­tion.

But Mr Preece said: “I’ve been here seven years and we still haven’t started it. I don’t think it’s a quick-fix at all.

“If you walk around this build­ing you can see it is in des­per­ate need of re­pair and re­dec­o­ra­tion. It’s al­most prov­i­den­tial that we have this op­por­tu­nity and this large amount of money to spend on this project.”

He said choirs, choral so­ci­eties and schools could play clas­sic con­cert mu­sic, mod­ern jazz and other mu­sic at the re­vamped church.

But dur­ing ques­tion­ing from the Com­mis­sion­ary Gen­eral for the Dio­cese of Can­ter­bury Richard Walker, who presided over the court, he ruled out any pos­si­bil­ity of rock con­certs or heavy metal be­ing played.

Mr Cooper and other ob­jec­tors, in­clud­ing Vic­to­rian So­ci­ety mem­bers, are concerned about plans to re­place the old pews with chairs and how the works would dam­age the char­ac­ter of the me­dieval Grade I listed church.

Ar­chi­tect Nick Lee Evans said: “I think it will change the char­ac­ter but won’t nec­es­sar­ily be dam­ag­ing. This isn’t a church from one era, it was built up over time. There will still be pews in the east end of the church and in the gal­leries and round the edges.”

A de­ci­sion is not ex­pected to be made un­til later in the sum­mer.

Pic­ture: Martin Apps PD1710728

TV pre­sen­ter Joe Swift and gar­den de­signer Philippa O’Brien in her gar­den at the mini Chelsea show at Stowt­ing Com­mon

The Rev Colin Preece

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