Plans for new Melton church building held up by protection for tree

John Craig next to the yew tree, which has a protection order on it, and in front of the old boiler house, which both have to be removed to make way for a new building at St Mary's Church in Melton EMN-180409-150929001
John Craig next to the yew tree, which has a protection order on it, and in front of the old boiler house, which both have to be removed to make way for a new building at St Mary's Church in Melton EMN-180409-150929001
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An 80-year-old yew tree could prevent plans for a new building to be constructed next to Melton’s St Mary’s Church to house choir practice, meetings and parish records.

The borough council’s planning committee agreed at their latest meeting to retain a provisional preservation order (TPO) on the tree which stands on the footpath between Church Street and Burton Street.

Mike McClure, fabric secretary at St Mary’s, had written to the council objecting to the order because the proposals for the new building were dependant on the tree being removed.

A planning application is being put together to go before the council and the Leicester Diocesan Advisory Committee outlining the development, which would be opposite the north transept.

It will involve demolishing a redundant boiler house and the revoking of the TPO for the tree to make way for a detached, single-storey building.

John Craig, project chairman for the development, said it would tidy up an unsightly part of the churchyard as well as providing an important new resource for church members.

He said: “We are a bit disappointed that the council has put the protection order on the tree but we are hoping they will work with us so the building can go ahead.

“If we got permission to remove the yew tree we would plant another one somewhere else and we do already have two or three yew trees elsewhere in the churchyard.

“The site for the building is the only place we could realistically put it and we think it would be important for the church and the town as well.”

The boiler house and associated infrastructure, which extends 10ft underground, was built in 1928 but is no longer used. Spoil from when it was built was piled up nearby and that is where the yew tree grew from.

Mr McClure’s letter of objection to preserving the tree argued that the tree is not old enough to be regarded as historically important in the setting of the Grade 1 listed church.

He wrote to say that sap and bird droppings from the tree had caused people to slip over, it restricted light to a room at the Samworth Centre, which is the administrative HQ for the parish, and it also provided cover for anti-social behaviour.

Historic England have written to say they do not object to the plans but would be concerned if the building extended further than the site occupied at present by the boiler house.

Mr Craig, who said it was hoped that the building would be in place within two years at the earliest, added: “What is here at the moment is ugly and this new building would make a big difference to the look of the churchyard with the landscaping we are also planning.”