Church revamp bid a ‘Godsend’
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.
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