The Antiochian Orthodox Church has expressed an interest in taking over the St. Alban’s Church site as a base for its congregation.
A group of representatives from its Council of Management visited the Acton Green site yesterday (Thursday, May 24th).They were accompanied by a representative of the London Diocese of the Church of England who own the land.
The property is the subject of a controversial planning application by a developer who wants to turn the disused church building into ten flats. Local residents want it to be retained for community use and say they have three parties interested in the site, either for use as a church, theatre, or new primary school.
In a letter to Ealing Council last month, the Hon. Sec of the Council of Management of the Antiochian Orthodox Church (a Christian church with roots in the Middle East), Mr. Simon Abdel-Nour said that the church had 500 members on its books many of them living in Ealing, but others local to the site.
If the Antiochian Orthodox Church acquired the premises it would build a community hall on its southern side to replace the temporary one already there. This would be made available to the local community for use-it is used as a nursery at present.
As the church building would be mainly used on Sundays, there would not be an issue of parking congestion, the letter stated. It called upon Ealing Council to reject the application to transform the church premises into residential units .
A decision on the controversial development was expected to be made at a planning committee meeting at Ealing Town Hall last November but deferred. A report by a council official has recommended granting planning permission to the developer, subject to conditions, but the Chiswick-based group,SACA has collected a petition of 4,500 signatures opposed to the plan, and wants the building to be kept for community use.
St. Alban’s, a Victorian red-brick structure which was built in 1888, ceased to be a functioning Church of England parish church in the late 1990s and was then used by evangelical mission the Oak Tree Anglican fellowship, which relocated to Acton in 2006, finding it unsuitable due to the need for renovation and difficult accessibility.
In recent years there has been a growing fashion for former churches to be converted into residential accommodation as the church-going population declines throughout the UK.
The current application before the council is for conversion of the disused church building into ten residential flats and the demolition of the former church hall building and second outbuilding, currently occupied by the Caterpillar Montessori group. This would be replaced with two two-storey’ pavilion’ type structures, one to provide a replacement nursery school facility and the other a detached house. It is understood there is a contract for sale subject to planning permission between the Church of England and a local developer. In 2006 when the vicarage of St. Alban’s was sold it fetched a price of £3.2million, the highest price ever paid for residential property in Chiswick at that time.
The application to convert the building was made last December.
Defending its decision to sell for residential development at the time, the London Diocese issued a statement to Ealing Council explaining that the Church of St. Alban’s, one of three in the parish of Acton Green (the others are St. Peter’s in Southfield Road, and the All Saints Church Centre in Bollo Bridge Road) was no longer required for worship due to “diminishing attendances”.