Parishioners challenge St Margaret Clitherow church demolition

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St Margaret Clitherow Catholic church, Bracknell
Image caption,
St Margaret Clitherow Church in Bracknell opened in 1972

Roman Catholics in a Berkshire town are planning a legal challenge against their diocese's decision to demolish their church.

Parishioners want to save St Margaret Clitherow in Bracknell, which has been off-limits for the past year due to repeated copper thefts from its roof.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth decided to pull it down, citing expensive repair costs.

At a meeting on Friday parishioners agreed to challenge the decision.

Nearly 200 people have joined a Facebook group campaign against the closure and 70 people attended the meeting.

Since the closure the church's parishioners have been attending St Joseph's Church, two miles further into town.

'Rescue a community'

Kate Pitt, who started the campaign, said many of the elderly and those with young children in the congregation were unable to get there.

She said: "It's very early days and at the moment we know we have two months before the church can do anything concrete to that building.

"There's a covenant that binds the land that says it can only be used for Roman Catholic use, but of course that can exchange hands for compensation.

"So we would be looking at how to register our concern with that.

"This may be a move which causes some initial conflict but I do think it's necessary to rescue a community that still feels really strongly about this church.

"This is a hub of a community that's struggling for its life."

Thieves have targeted the church several times over the past few years and more than half of the copper on the roof has been taken.

The Bishop of Portsmouth, Crispian Hollis, said in a letter to the parishioners: "The scale of the work necessary would leave the parish with a sizable debt, exacerbating the financial burden on the parish.

"Security is an issue and sadly, due to the isolated location of the church, thefts would most likely continue.

"For these reasons, together with the geographical proximity of St Margaret Clitherow to St Joseph's and the reality of only one priest available to serve the community in Bracknell, the Bishop and the Diocesan Trustees have decided to permanently close the church and demolish it.

"At present the site will be retained until it can be ascertained how best to dispose of it so that the parish can benefit financially."

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