Plans to replace Berkhamsted church with building four times the size will be a ‘brutalist eyesore’ say residents

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The applicant says the current congregation has outgrown the church

Residents say plans to replace an 150-year-old church in Dacorum will create ‘a brutalist eyesore’.

Applicant Kings Church Road has put forward plans to demolish the current Evangelical Church in Berkhamsted and replace it with a four-storey church building, including a café, events pace and teaching space. The bigger building design – around four times the size of the original - aims to house the growing congregation with a capacity for around 240 people.

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The existing building, originally christened as Hope Hall, was erected in 1874 as a place of worship for the Plymouth Brethren, and has since undergone reconstruction in 1969.

The existing church building.The existing church building.
The existing church building.

The applicant says the current congregation has outgrown the church, with no space for community projects and groups.

But residents argue the proposed building design is too big and not in keeping with the character of the conserved area.

One objector wrote: “The proposed monstrous replacement for a building once known as Hope Hall is totally inappropriate in a conservation area. Please give us hope that another brutalist eyesore will not be foisted on a community that values its historic market town.

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“To counter arguments that aesthetics should not trump the needs of the community, why must the latter be housed in such utterly ugly buildings?”

How the new church could look.How the new church could look.
How the new church could look.

Other criticisms include the height and scale of the design compared with surrounding buildings, traffic management concerns, loss of light and privacy to nearby residents, and noise impact. The parish council has also objected to the application on these grounds.

The applicant has acknowledged the height difference and assures residents plans will involve ‘maintaining a discernible reduction in height relative to surrounding structures’.

They add: “We have aimed to ensure that the roof does not become overly visible from adjacent streets, especially from Elm Grove.”

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A document report argues the ‘contemporary and high quality’ architecture will be sensitive to the character of the surroundings.

It says: “This integration of modernity and tradition in a sensitive location has been a significant project aim. The proposed development provides an opportunity to enhance the character and appearance of the western side of the Kings Road. We believe that the introduction of a larger scale building which integrates into the existing architectural context extending to the High Street provides a great opportunity for a level of place-making significance and a much-needed exemplar civic gateway to Berkhamsted town centre.”

They also address concerns over potential loss of light and privacy.

They add: “We have reduced the overall number and location for windows facing the street to ensure minimal lighting overspill as well as mitigating any potential noise impacts. Internal daylighting strategies use several other approaches including rooflights.”

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Chartered Surveyors - Rights of Light Consulting has also been commissioned to undertake an in-depth analysis.

The church has also said it would support a resident’s parking scheme, and pointed out the church was within walking distance of local car parks, with limited disabled parking ad private parking facilities.

Unconvinced by the arguments, residents have launched a petition which has gained nearly 750 signatures out of its target of 1,000.

Visit to view the petition.