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Row at historic church hits roof.

AN unholy row over the future of an historic church is to be settled in court.

The Sunday Mercury can reveal that Church of England leaders will face campaigners at an ecclesiastical hearing in May.

The two sides will thrash out the future of one of the country's finest examples of 19th century architecture.

Members of the Victorian Society claim a pounds 750,000 development scheme planned for All Saints in Small Heath, Birmingham, would destroy its historical value.

But the church said the project would be a boost to a deprived community.

A consistory court hearing will take place on May 6 to 8 and a judge will decide whether planned changes to the interior can go ahead.

Andrew Foster, spokesman for the Birmingham branch of the Victorian Society, said: "The main reason the building is listed is because of its remarkable interior.

"It is really magnificent and impressive - a great ship of a building.

"We have no real problems with the other plans for outside but what we really cannot take is the turning round of the church and breaking up the fittings and the space inside.

"It would destroy the most essential part of the church."

The church is exempt from planning regulations which affect areas of worship.

Council permission is needed for other developments and the city has referred the matter to the Environment Secretary.

Planning chiefs recommended the scheme be approved.

The starred Grade II listed building - formerly St Aidan's - was built in 1893.

It is one of the top six per cent in the country for its architectural and historic interest.

The breathtaking 90ft high interior is at the heart of the row.

Plans put forward by the church vicar, the Rev Guy Wilkinson, include:

Creating a second level above the existing chancel.

Moving the interior around by 180 degrees so the congregation faces the opposite direction.

Turning the existing clergy house into a welcome centre, community meeting place and cafe.

Moving notable features including the rood, altar and screens.

Moving the entrance to the church from the side on to the front of the building.

A new roof and heating system is also planned.

The Rev Wilkinson said: "The new centre will provide decent facilities for local groups.

"The worshippers have looked after it for the last 100 years. We know a thing or two."
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 12, 1998
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