A village is in uproar after “divisive” redevelopment plans for a parish centre were given the nod.

St Leonards Parochial Church Council, in Chesham Bois, submitted plans in February this year to transform the parish centre site into a new centre, rectory and keeper’s cottage.

In the design and access statement, the church council wrote: “Both the church building and parish centre are no longer large enough to accommodate the growing congregation.

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“The church therefore hires the main hall at the Beacon School, in Amersham Road. Whilst this space is adequate, it is not a long-term solution for the church and community needs.

“In addition, the current parish centre building is coming to the end of its useful life.”

But villagers have dubbed the plans as “divisive” saying they are opposed to the scale of the development, with parish councillors also voting against the plans in April.

They cited the “scale and intensity” of the proposal, “insufficient” parking arrangements and “unacceptable levels of disturbance” to residents as their reasons for refusal.

Councillors have now given the plans the nod after the church submitted new papers to address parking, security and drainage issues.

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Resident Alison Bailey said the recent “U-turn” had come as a “complete shock” to the village.

She said: “No justification for the reversal of this decision has yet been published. No new facts have emerged since the original proposal and it is difficult to see what has made some councillors change their minds.”

Speaking about the church’s revised plans, Ms Bailey added: “The revised papers show that the entire Glebe Field and part of the pre-school garden have been sacrificed for additional parking spaces.

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“It is also proposed that urban style fencing is added alongside the public footpath through the wooded common land, further detracting from the rural nature of the Conservation Area.”

Another resident, Professor Peter Dawson, said: “My wife Hilary and I are outraged and astonished at the volte face by the Chesham Bois Parish Council.

“They have made a monumental mistake and have betrayed local residents. I have little doubt this decision to support the scheme will cause much trouble.”

And Paul Hilton described the decision as “incomprehensible”, adding: “This incongruous building is not only completely unsuited and unnecessary in a conservation area, but will be a blight on Chesham Bois and residents in the immediate vicinity for years to come.”

A spokesman for the parish council said: “The council is on notice of threatened legal proceedings and is unable to comment on this matter.”