A HISTORIC church could be given a new lease of life by being transformed into a home.

The plans to transform Birch’s St Peter and Paul’s Church are due to be considered by Colchester Council.

And heritage experts from Historic England said it could be the “last opportunity” to save it for future generations.

The church, which sits in a conservation area, has become increasingly dilapidated since 1990 when church services were stopped.

Builder Gary Cottee, of Tiptree, now hopes to turn the church into a five bedroom property complete with games room and cinema for his family to live in.

If the plans are approved, the majority of the church’s south aisle would be demolished but keeping the western gable wall. It would then be converted to a single house with new raft foundation, partial mezzanine and new floors in the tower.

The proposals have received both praise and criticism from villagers and official bodies.

Historic England said it could be the “last opportunity to allow a sustainable future for the building”.

Andrew Martindale, inspector of historic buildings, said: “By bringing the currently unused and neglected church back into use and good repair, the proposals have the potential to have a positive impact on the conservation area.”

However, he warned Colchester Council would have to decide if the harm done to the south aisle of the building was outweighed by the overall benefit of the scheme.

Birch Church has been under threat of demolition since the 1990s. And in 2014, the Church Commissioners for England said it could not find a use for the site.

At one point, a housing scheme was proposed for the site but later abandoned.

Demolition plans were thwarted in 2018 when outraged villagers campaigned for a more viable use to be found and the church commissioners withdrew their proposals.

The Rev Richard Carr, who has lived in Birch for 40 years, said he thought it was an unsuitable development.

He said: “I do not consider that family occupation, with the activities that can be expected in the residence and garden, is conducive to maintaining the peace and dignity that should prevail in the churchyard.”

The Gazette contacted Mr Cottee but he did not respond at the time of going to press.