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Future of Thetford church hangs in the balance

PUBLISHED: 09:34 07 January 2010 | UPDATED: 21:51 07 July 2010

THE future of a listed church in Thetford hangs in the balance after its owner allowed the building to fall into disrepair.

THE future of a listed church in Thetford hangs in the balance after its owner allowed the building to fall into disrepair.

St Mary the Less Church on Old Bury Road is a grade II* listed building but has faced serious decline in recent years.

Now, Breckland Council has been forced to intervene and apply for funding from English Heritage to underwrite the cost of emergency works.

If granted, the council could receive 80pc of the money needed, £30,000 in this case, and serve an urgent works notice to the current owner.

In a report to go before Breckland's cabinet on January 12, historic buildings officer Andrew Gayton, recommended three actions to be taken.

These were to authorise a formal application to English Heritage for grant aid to underwrite a maximum of 80pc of unrecoverable costs associated with an urgent works notice; serve the notice on the current owner; and authorise the provision of funds to enable the works should the owner not comply with the notice.

In the report he added: “The principal issue is simply that the ongoing preservation of this grade II* listed building at risk hangs in the balance due to the inaction of the current owner and that funding is required to secure its immediate repair and ultimately its ongoing future preservation.”

Ownership of the building, which is no longer in use, has changed several times in recent years and permission granted for conversion into flats has lapsed.

The current owner, whom the council has been in talks with, gained the title absolute in 2004 for £124,000 and is currently offering the building on the open market for £199, 950.

Mr Gayton said in his report however that according to the district valuer the building has nil monetary value. The report will go before Breckland's cabinet on January 12 at 9.30 in Elizabeth House in Dereham.

Letters - page 23.

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