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Huge repair bill threatens listed church with demolition

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A church which was one of the 28 listed by English Heritage last month (aj 1.10.98) is faced with demolition because it needs £1.5 million worth of repairs. St Leonards at St Leonards-on-Sea, designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott in 1961, 'should never have been built here in the first place', according to the Rev Jeremy Cross, rector of the church. He has applied for redundancy, which would allow the building to be abandoned.

'It is a fine building,' said Ralph Wood of Lefevre Wood & Royle, architect to the church, 'but the architect was not familiar with the problems of building on the south coast.' He explained that 'the wrong stone' had been used, and the pointing on the brickwork is falling out. As a result there is severe penetration of salt water, with corrosion of elements such as the galvanised steel ties which support the mesh and plaster ceiling.

The building's location is also a problem. It replaces an earlier church built in a quarry in 1831 by James Burton, which was destroyed in the Second World War. Only six years after the new church was completed, a fall of rock destroyed its chancel, and there have been landslips ever since. A new retaining wall would need to be built to protect it, which alone would cost £500,000.

A new use is unlikely to be found for the church. The area has lots of empty property, and Cross described it as 'over-churched'.

An eh spokeswoman said, 'The secretary of state is only allowed to take into account the building's historical and architectural significance when deciding to list.'

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