Council warn improve church or knock it down

By Ian Dipple Tuesday 01 April 2014 Updated: 01/04 09:48

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Buy photos » St Gregory's Church, pictured here in poor condition three years ago. The council has now ordered the building to be improved or demolished. Picture by Nick Hands 3711015NHR2

THE OWNERS of a derelict church which has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour have been ordered to improve or demolish the building.

Redditch Borough Council has issued the warning to the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham due to the deteriorating condition of St Gregory's Church in Winyates.

Not only is the church run down but the grounds are completely overgrown, it is a popular spot for anti-social behaviour and police report drug usage, metal thefts from the roofs and fires in the wooded area behind the building.

The council has now decided enough is enough and has issued an Untidy Land Notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which has ordered the vegetation to be cut back to a height of 5cm and the church buildings to be either improved or demolished by July 23 this year. Improvements include replacing and painting rotten boarding, repairing the roof and removing plants climbing over the walls.

If the archdiocese fails to comply with the notice they could face prosecution or the council could carry out the work and then charge them for it.

Sue Hanley, the council's deputy chief executive and chair of North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership, said: "The empty church has become run down over a number of years and the council has received a lot of complaints.

"Its present condition cannot be left to deteriorate further and Redditch Borough Council has served a formal notice to start addressing the issue."

PC Paul Downes, safer neighbourhood team office, supported the council's action.

"A lot of good work has been carried out by the council’s locality and Winning Winyates teams to rejuvenate the Winyates Centre and having this eyesore nearby has detracted from that. As partners we have been involved in the discussions concerning the issuing of this notice and we regard it as a very positive development.

"Hopefully the outcome will be to improve the whole look of the area and lead to a reduction in reports of anti social behaviour there."

Efforts have been made in the past to bring the building back into use with discussions with the YMCA and Oasis Christian Centre around plans to turn it into a community centre, youth and children's club.

The Standard contacted the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham for comment but they have yet to respond.

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