PLANNING chiefs have approved proposals for a new security system which aims to protect a vandal-hit church in the New Forest.

Members of St Mary Magdalene in Church Lane, New Milton, have been given consent to install CCTV cameras and place stainless steel mesh over two windows either side of the entrance.

It follows an incident in which vandals smashed one of the windows at the Grade II-listed church, causing "unsightly and depressing" damage.

On another occasion a car was damaged after youths interrupted a thanksgiving service by banging on the church windows.

The culprit threw a stone at one of the vehicles parked outside the building after the group was criticised for disturbing the service.

St Mary Magdalene, part of which dates from the 17th century, is the only listed building in the Old Milton Green Conservation Area.

A heritage statement which formed part of the planning application described the ancient place of worship as "one of the more significant buildings in the area".

The statement said the proposed window screens were the "most unobtrusive" option.

It added: "There will be some harm in placing CCTV cameras where they can be seen but benefits of the cameras will clearly outweigh the harm by protecting the buildings.

"The outward appearance of the church will not alter significantly if wiring routes and camera positions are sympathetically considered."

Now the proposals put forward by the church have been approved by the district council.

A report produced by planning officers said: "The CCTV system would comprise four cameras on the church, positioned in order to achieve maximum visibility around the building. One camera is also proposed for the church hall, which does not form part of this application.

"The proposals are intended to help protect the church from vandalism.

"The CCTV cameras and the (window) screens would be fixed directly to the church and would impact on the special qualities of the building. However, this impact is considered acceptable in the interests of protecting the listed building.

"On balance the proposals would have a negligible impact on the building and on the character and appearance of the area."

Church members welcomed the council's decision, saying they hoped the £5,000 scheme would act as a deterrent and put an end to costly repair bills.


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