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Plans to restore Church of St Mary the Virgin in Wimbotsham submitted to West Norfolk Council following fire

A fire-ravaged church could “once again become the heart of the community” if plans to restore the historic building are approved.

The interior of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, in Wimbotsham, was almost entirely destroyed during a 2019 blaze which 50 firefighters battled.

The nave roof and floor, window lights and tower roof and floors were were nearly completely lost in what was described by Lynn fire station manager Terry Pinto as a “very sad day”.

A fire ravaged the Wimbotsham church in 2019, but it could now be restored
A fire ravaged the Wimbotsham church in 2019, but it could now be restored

Now, a planning application has been submitted which, if approved by West Norfolk Council, could see the listed building returned to its former glory.

Philip Wing, on behalf of the Wimbotsham Parochial Church Council (PCC), has submitted the application.

The proposed developments would involve the construction of a single storey monopitch extension to the south, the installation of roof integrated PV panels to the south slope of the reinstated nave roof, and an air source heat pump and enclosure being installed.

Firefighters during the church blaze four years ago
Firefighters during the church blaze four years ago

External landscaping works are proposed to provide three disabled parking spaces, cycle hoops, small areas of York stone paving, a new gravel footpath and grass reinforcement to the north of the churchyard.

A planning report produced by Stantec UK on behalf of the church says: “Having suffered from a catastrophic fire in 2019, the PCC has been presented with a unique opportunity to maximise the potential of the building to create an inclusive community facility, which can improve the long-term sustainability of the church and retain the building in its optimum viable use as a community asset and place of worship.

“The proposals have been designed in such a way as to ensure no loss of historic fabric within the building and to minimise the potential impact on the special architectural interest of the listed building.”

The addition of roof mounted solar panels is expected to result in a visual change to the southern elevation of the building.

However, the positioning of the panels and a reduction in numbers has sought to reduce the impact, according to the Stantec report.

It says that their installation would not result in any damage to historic fabric as a result of the roof being replaced, meaning that “any harm would be relatively minor”.

The report adds: “The proposals would bring the building back into active use and the proposed extension would ensure flexibility to allow the church to meet the needs of the existing community.

“The extension has been designed in such a way as to preserve the special interest of the listed building and it will in fact ensure the long-term preservation of the architectural features of note within the southern elevation of the church.

“The extension will be a sympathetic addition to the church which will allow the building to once again become the heart of the community following its restoration, providing a multipurpose and flexible space.”

The planning application was validated on December 21, and is awaiting a decision from the borough council.

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