Church at the gateway to Emsworth is taking shape

Emsworth Baptist church under construction PICTURE BY KATE SHEMILT C141018-3 SUS-141211-170935001
Emsworth Baptist church under construction PICTURE BY KATE SHEMILT C141018-3 SUS-141211-170935001

CONSTRUCTION of the new £2.2m baptist church at the gateway to Emsworth is well underway.

Patrick Laycock, chairman of the Emsworth Baptist Church Trust, said the project was progressing well and is on schedule to be finished by May, 2015.

He said: “The framework has been completed, the ceiling has gone up and the brick work is going well. The next stage is the roof.”

The building, next to the A259 roundabout in North Street, will include a 200-seat auditorium for church services and community events, alongside a foyer area, catering facilities and toilets.

The project faced a rough start after Havant Borough Council’s planning committee turned down plans for the building three years ago.

Committee members voted against the proposals, saying they wanted a more iconic building at the northern entrance to the town centre. But the church appealed to the government’s planning inspector.

After an investigation, the go-ahead was given at the end of 2011.

In June, a £10,000 cash boost was given to the church trust, towards the construction of its new building.

The money came from the Co-op’s community support card scheme, which donated £15,000 to local groups.

Councillor Brendan Gibb-Gray, who represents Emsworth, abstained from the vote when he was on the planning committee in 2011 because he was ‘unhappy with the design’.

“It was a big disappointment to many in the community that the planning inspector overturned the decision of the local planning committee to allow the design of the current building,” said Cllr Gibb-Gray.

“To many it is an incongruous structure in a gateway position in the town centre.

“From the outside it looks more like a warehouse than a church or concert hall with too much bulk and different roof levels to make it sit comfortably in the location.

“Whilst we congratulate the Baptist community on their efforts I should remind readers that the Emsworth Community Association has a fine community building which is open to all sections of our community irrespective of religious belief.”