Hatfield church development plan on hold

PLANS to demolish a church and build houses have been put on hold because of the economic downturn. And with no prospect of work beginning anytime soon, church staff are moving back in to the building they vacated last year. Since autumn, Birchwood

PLANS to demolish a church and build houses have been put on hold because of the economic downturn.

And with no prospect of work beginning anytime soon, church staff are moving back in to the building they vacated last year.

Since autumn, Birchwood Methodist Church, in Birchwood Avenue, Hatfield, has been empty in preparation for work to begin on building five three-bedroom homes on the land.

Full planning permission - which would include building a new, smaller church on the site - was granted two weeks ago.

But in the face of collective belt-tightening from companies across the country, finding a developer to undertake the scheme has proved difficult.

Project manager Peter Barlow said: "We were effectively caught by the credit crunch.

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"The plan was to sell the land to a developer who would then build a smaller church on the site."

Planning permission had originally been granted back in 2007 for four new dwellings to be built on the site, but the plans were amended in 2008, to include another home and the construction of a new building for the church.

If work on the church is not completed within three years of permission being granted, the project will have to go through the planning process again.

But Mr Barlow added: "We are hoping to find a new developer later in the year when the market should be stronger."

The church will be re-opened on May 3.

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