SHOCKED campaigners have rallied together to save a Grade II-listed Oxford church from demolition, but leaders have said ‘people’s needs are more important’ than the crumbling building.

Fresh plans to knock down the Church of the Holy Family (CHF) in Blackbird Leys and rebuild it as a community hub with a block of flats were sent to Oxford City Council earlier this year.

Trustees and planners said the building, on Cuddlesdon Way, was in need of ‘urgent repairs’ explaining that the lights cannot be controlled, the windows cannot be opened, the floor slopes and the pews are rigid.

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But a small group of campaigners have now launched a bid to save the ‘unique’ building hailing it as a ‘prominent landmark in Blackbird Leys’.

Oxford Mail:

One of them, Steve Newman, said: “I was shocked to read about the plans to demolish it.

Read the plans in full here.

“The church has a unique design and is a prominent landmark in Blackbird Leys and is instantly recognisable.

“The first time I attended the church was for a christening of a friend’s child and I remember being incredibly impressed by the design of the church both internally and externally. The church’s interior was stunning and unlike any church I’ve been in. Once it's demolished it's gone forever, but when it's gone people will miss it.”

One of the reasons the church trustees planned to knock it down was because the roof had collapsed last year, leaving them with a £2m bill to fix.

Denise Morrey-Carter, the chair of the trustees said: “We investigated whether there was any alternative sources of funding for repair and we went to the lottery fund and a number of other funds and none of those would be prepared to fund a repair – whereas we are confidence that we can raise the money for and get the support for the new build.”

The idea is now to knock down the building in its current state, leaving them with an acre of land to build a four-storey block of 20 flats and a new church with halls and a garden in the middle.

Under the new proposals, the building will have a ‘more flexible’ worship space that can be divided up into smaller areas and a gallery level.

Oxford Mail:

Professor Morrey-Carter said: “There is an enormous local support this community desperately needs a new church that can actually operate. The church building has been closed so people can’t have weddings, baptisms or funerals.

“We really love the church as it is, but we love the community much more.

“We want to attract entrepreneurial support and the local community wants this new build.

"I’m sorry but people are more important than this horribly soggy and wet timber. Off all communities this community needs all the help it can get.”

However the church has now been listed on SOS Brutalism ‘in danger’ list – and if there’s enough support the council might have to consider what campaigners have to say before they give the revamp the green-light.

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Mr Newman also shared a letter from the Twentieth Century Society Group which allegedly fought to save the church from demolition by applying for its listed status in 2018.

In the email, seen by this paper, it said: “[We] hoped that the designation of the building would make the church realise that they had an asset not a liability and rethink their plans – clearly not.”

Mr Newman added: “It is very rare, but not unprecedented, for permission to be granted to demolish a listed building – let’s hope the city council make the right decision.”