COUNCILLORS will decide whether bells can ring out from an Oxford church for the first time in at least four decades after a cacophony of complaints from neighbours.

Russian Orthodox church St Nicholas the Wonderworker has applied to Oxford City Council for permission to install and ring new bells.

While originally a church, the Ferry Road building’s last use was as a sign factory and the ringing of bells was not allowed when planning permission was granted to turn it back into a place of woship in 2010.

But after being given a gift of bells made in Russia, the church now wants to have its planning permission changed – attracting more than 20 objections to Oxford City Council.

They have accused the church of bringing conflict into the local area and say the changes would “distress” the residents.

Ferry Road resident Ian Plummer said: “Bells by design are loud and carry long distances.

“The tolling of bells is not part of the general character of the area. The majority of the Russian Orthodox congregation do not live locally, including the priest, and hence it is incongruous that the local residents should be expected to suffer an additional frippery.”

But some people have backed the plan, saying the “modest request” would add character to Marston.

The Rev Stephen Platt, the church’s priest, said: “Other kinds of churches ring bells, so it is something we have been hoping for.

“I don’t think there will be a large amount of noise because what is actually proposed is bellringing for limited periods of time on limited occasions during the week.”

Under the proposals, bellringing would only be allowed before church services on Saturdays at 5.30pm and on Sundays at 10.30pm as well as for weddings, funerals and feast days.

It would also allow evening services twice yearly.

The application was initially going to be decided by council planning officers, but it has now been called in for debate by the east area planning committee next Wednesday.