New memorial hall could be built at West Leigh Baptist Church

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Plans to redevelop a memorial hall at the West Leigh Baptist Church could be given the go-ahead next week after Southend’s planning team recommended them for approval, despite 20 objections.

The planning application outlines the demolition of the existing memorial hall located to the rear of the Baptist church on Lymington Avenue in Leigh and rebuilding it.

The replacement will be larger than the existing hall due to a redesign of the foyer and improvements to accessibility. It will include a sports hall, meeting rooms, kitchen and craft space, as well as a new courtyard.

The church says the change is needed due to a significant growth in the number of people attending services but in 20 letters sent to the council, residents living nearby have raised a raft of concerns including fears that the redevelopment will be “imposing” and will overlook neighbouring properties.

There is also significant concern about parking due to there being just ten parking spaces planned for the site. The residents say that limited parking at the church has already caused confrontations between those who live in the area and those visiting the church and this will only increase as a result of the plans.

Other issues include complaints about the inclusion of a sports hall, with some saying the site is “meant to be a place of worship, not a sports facility”.

Despite the concerns, council officers say they do not represent “a reasonable basis to refuse planning permission in the circumstance of this case”.

The officers go on to say the plans should be granted planning permission because they will deliver an “enhanced community facility” and there would be “no harmful traffic, parking or highways impact”.

A spokesperson for the church explained in planning documents that it has been serving the community for the past 100 years and over the last six to seven year there has been a “significant growth in the numbers attending services and events”.

They said: “We are a vibrant community centred church. Completion of the building project will enable us to better serve and meet the needs of the local community we seek to serve and support.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter