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Sheppard Robson is designing the biggest church in the UK, the AJ can reveal.

The massive scheme, in Havering, east London, will accommodate a congregation more than double that of St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey combined.

Sheppard Robson says the £70 million project will deliver a 'stadium-esque' 9,000-seat auditorium, and will be able to house more than 10,500 people at any one time.

Backed by one of Britain's biggest Christian groups, the Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), the new church will dwarf both St Paul's and Westminster Abbey which have capacities of 2,300 and 2,000 respectively.

KICC - an independent church - boasts a following of more than 12,000 people and attracts 10,000 mainly AfroCaribbean followers every week.

The Christian group was originally based in a 4ha converted warehouse near Hackney Marshes, but recently relocated after the land was bought through a Compulsory Purchase Order to make way for the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

With the help of the London Development Agency and the Olympic Delivery Authority, the church will utilise Beam Reach, a 4ha brownfield site east of the Olympic Park.

The scheme will be built over five phases and will not be completed for another four years, with the first phase involving a temporary structure to provide an initial 5,000 followers with worship space.

If completed, KICC's new home will become the second biggest place of worship in the UK, after Mangera Yvars' Abbey Mills planned project, dubbed the 'mega mosque'.

And the church's future seems more secure than that of the mosque. Although originally designed to accommodate 70,000 worshippers, it is understood the Abbey Mills scheme is being significantly downsized due to growing opposition to the scheme.

Recent reports have also suggested that architect Mangera Yvars may also have been dropped from the project, although practice principal Ali Mangera has vehemently denied this.

However, KICC is no stranger to controversy either.

The church group was recently investigated by the Charity Commission, which found evidence of 'serious' financial misconduct, and ordered senior pastor and church founder Matthew Ashimolowo to repay the charity £200,000.

KICC encourages worshippers to donate a 10th of their salaries to the church, and sermons allegedly centre on praying for wealth, with Ashimolowo regularly giving 'prosperity gospels'.

Sheppard Robson is part of a team including UK project-managementfirm Gleeds, which has recently completed a 7,000-seat First Baptist Church in Alabama, US.

Sheppard Robson's designs will be submitted for planning approval next week.

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