The Future of Birch Church


This Website

This website is compiled and maintained by Richard Carr, a Birch resident for over 40 years.

The aim is to provide Birch residents, and others having an interest in the church and churchyard, with information about the ongoing situation regarding the future of Birch church.

In January 2013 the Church Commissioners published a draft Pastoral Scheme for the demolition of the building (which has been closed for worship since 1990) and incorporation of the site into the churchyard as a garden of remembrance.

During the summer of 2013 the Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust undertook a feasibility study of proposals to preserve the tower and spire. At the end of October that year the Trust submitted a report on its viability study to the Church Commissioners and Chelmsford Diocese, seeking approval for a proposal of Mr Gary Cottee of Tiptree to convert the church into a large family home. This proposal was considered by the Church Buildings (Uses and Disposals) Committee of the Church Commissioners when it met on 18th December 2013. The Committee did not consider the Cottee proposal for residential development to be financially viable or sustainable and reaffirmed its decision that the draft Scheme for demolition should proceed. The statutory consultees (the Ancient Monuments Society, the Victorian Society, Colchester Borough Council and English Heritage) all sustained objections to the draft Scheme. Consequently, the Commissioners referred the case to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in February 2014. In late July 2014 the Secretary of State decided that a non-statutory public inquiry should be held in order to fully consider all the issues involved in the case.

Following a Pre-Inquiry Meeting held at Colchester on 21st February 2018, the Inspector appointed to conduct the public inquiry about the future of the building issued an 'Inquiry Programme incorporating agreed dates' stating that the public inquiry would open on 9th October (2018). On 12th June 2018 the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government wrote to interested parties informing them that the referral of the draft scheme for the proposed demolition of the closed Church of Birch St Peter, to the Secretary of State, had been withdrawn by the Church Commissioners for England and confirmed that, as a consequence, the non-statutory public inquiry will not proceed. For information on the current situation see News Update on the Home page.

On 29th July 2018 Colchester Borough Council received and registered planning and listed building consent applications from Mr Cottee for the conversion of Birch church to a five-bedroom residence. Details of the planning applications can be viewed on the Borough Council's website using the following links:
   Application No 181908     Application No 181909

Amended Planning Applications were lodged with Colchester Borough Council in January 2020. As at August 2020 it is still not known when the Cottees' applications are likely to come before the Planning Committee for determination.

You can email Richard Carr at the following address:

To minimise spam the address has to be entered in emails manually.

Birch Parish Council

Mrs Elaine Bowtle, Chair
Hollybrooke House
Birch Street
Colchester CO2 0ND

Tel: 330388

Ms Angela Balcombe, Parish Clerk
6 Shires Close
Great Notley
Braintree CM77 7FT

Tel: 01376-550927. Mob: 07939-536286

County and Borough Councillors

Councillor Kevin Bentley (County and Borough Councillor)
Willoughby End
32 Willoughby Avenue
West Mersea
Colchester CO5 8AU

Telephone: 01206-382405
FAX: 01206-548200

Councillor Andrew Ellis (Borough Councillor)
Wigborough Road
Colchester CO5 7RA.

Telephone: 01206-735166
Mobile: 07768 986 611

The Church Commissioners

Ms Andrea Mulkeen, Head of Pastoral and Closed Churches
Closed Churches Division
Church Commissioners
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ

Tel: 020-7898-????

Mr Jeremy Tipping, Closed Churches Team Manager
Closed Churches Division
Church Commissioners
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ

Tel: 020-7898-1595

Diocese of Chelmsford

Mr Nathan Whitehead, Head of Service Delivery
Chelmsford Diocesan Office
53 New Street
Chelmsford CM1 1AT

Tel: 01245-294412

Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust

Mr David Balcombe, Director

Mr & Mrs Gary Cottee

Spring House
Ransom Road
Tiptree CO5 0TL