Wall Heath church expansion backed despite opposition from residents
A church will be demolished and replaced with a larger building under expansion plans approved by council bosses.
Dudley Council gave the green light to Wall Heath Evangelical Free Church for the revamp despite objections from neighbours, some of who said it would look like a ‘factory unit’.
The plans will see the Enville Road church, dating back to 1952, enlarged and turned from a one-storey to two-storey building, as its congregation continues to grow.
The planning application was recommended for refusal by a planning officer but the committee unanimously overturned the decision and gave the plans the go-ahead.
The meeting heard there had also been 15 objections made by local residents against the plans
Church reverend Matthew Jones said: “Our proposed development will indeed have some impact on the community.
“We want to provide a warm, welcoming, contemporary space that is sustainable for generations of people in Wall Heath.
“We are completely self-funded and rely on members own charitable giving and some grants to provide for all our services.
“It is never our intention to upset neighbours.”
The church has around 135 people attend Sunday congregations, with other groups attended by the community through the week.
But a new 216-seat auditorium is planned, alongside new facilities including toilets, a kitchen, store areas and a cafe.
Councillors on the committee voted in favour of the plans, but some section of the church’s community were against them.
Pamela Horwill, who lives next door to the church, speaking at the meeting, said the new church would look ‘at best residential accommodation and at worst a factory unit’.
“These plans will have a detrimental affect on homes on their quality of life,” she said.
Further fears were raised at the meeting that the expansion could add to traffic along Enville Road, increasing the danger for both residents and motorists using the street.
Council officer Ian Hunt, who recommended the application for refusal, said: “In the West Midlands, there has been 22,000 accidents in the last three years. A quarter, or 5,000, of those involved pedestrians. Of those, 1,000 accidents involved a parked car.”
As part of the deal to approve the application, the committee ruled that conditions must be in place to address the concerns raised by residents around parking.