THE chairman of Thurrock Council’s planning committee was “absolutely disgusted” by proposals to build an extension to a 12th century church in East Tilbury village.

The application – which was eventually approved – had been lodged by Canon Paul Robinson, of the West and East Tilbury and Linford parish, in a bid to make St Catherine’s Church more accessible.

The 32 sq m structure will contain toilet and kitchen facilites, meaning the church can host concerts and community events.

But plans to finish the single storey extension with weatherboarding and a pantile roof drew strong criticism from committee members.

A resident and member of the church’s congregation also spoke against the plans, likening the proposed structure to a “B&Q lean-to”.

Cllr Terry Hipsey, committee chairman, pictured, said: “I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the planning application for this in terms of design. I’m absolutely disgusted at what’s being proposed.

"If he can’t propose something better for that church, I cannot support it.

“It should at least have some type of sympathy of what this church is all about, not just a piece of wood that’s going to be put at the front, for everyone to see.

“I understand it’s a much-needed facility, but the exterior design of that means I won’t be supporting it.”

The church, in Princess Margaret Road, is one of just seven Grade One listed buildings in Thurrock and its nave dates back to the early 12th century, while the north arcade and isle were added later in the century.

But the plans received the backing of English Heritage and Cllr Charlie Curtis, the committee’s vice-chairman, who pointed out the extension would cover up an archway which has been filled in with red brick, totally out of kilter with the historic church’s masonry.

He said: “It’s a lovely building, but anything that gets rid of that horrible red arch is an improvement.”

Cllr Phil Anderson, who also sits on the committee, said: “I would support the need for toilets and kitchen facilities.

“If the church is going to go on with a viable congregation and place of worship with community facilities in the 21st century, it does need those things.”