THE first couple of Colchester’s Labour Party have thrown their support behind a campaign to save the church where they got married 30 years ago.

In November 1984, Tim and Julie Young walked down the aisle at St Peter’s Church in Birch.

Now respectively leaders of Colchester Council’s and Essex County Council’s Labour groups, they have backed a campaign to save it from demolition.

The couple, along with the North East Essex Building Preservation Trust and the Victorian Society, support attempts by developer Gary Cottee to buy and turn the Grade II listed building into a home.

But church commissioners and the Chelmsford Diocese say the proposals are “not financially viable” and demolition of the church, declared redundant in 1990, will go ahead.

The last hope for campaigners is that communities secretary Eric Pickles could “callin”

the decision for a planning inquiry.

Mr Young said he had both sentimental and practical reasons to support saving St Peter’s Church. He and his wife married there because Julie grew up in the village, went to Birch School opposite, and sang in the church choir.

He said: “I have got some emotional attachment to it, Julie even more so, but that’s not the only reason we want it to be saved.

“It has local support and historical value and it seems all the factors are there for demolition not to go ahead.

“Demolition should be a last resort if there’s no other offer on the table.”

John Spademan, Labour’s candidate for Birch and Winstree ward at the local elections in May, said he believed local opinion was largely in favour of saving the church.

He said: “It would be a shame to lose such a historic building when somebody has offered to buy it. It’s a landmark for the Birch area. I’ve signed the petition and I fully support the campaign.”

The building preservation trust has launched an online petition to save the church at which has so far attracted more than 370 signatures.