Published: 14:01, 28 December 2019
| Updated: 08:23, 31 December 2019
An entire church site could be sold off for housing as one reverend's house has been deemed as beyond repair.
The Archdiocese of Southwark has decided to sell St Thomas More Church in West Malling along with a pre school and The Hermitage, a priest's house, as it faces repair costs of more than £1million.
The Catholic church building and the pre school, which was recently converted from a stable at a cost of £85,000, do not need any repairs, but a fallen parapet has caused major damage to The Hermitage.
Father Peter Soper, who has lived in the grounds for 20 years, said: "The fact is The Hermitage has too much wrong with it. The repairs are going to be astronomical and neither the diocese nor the parish can afford it.
"I think somebody will buy it and covert it into apartments.
"We're on a conservation area but a developer could knock the church down and build. We're right on the A228 and five minutes from the station."
The Archdiocese is expected to find alternative provisions before it lists the land for sale in the spring.
Up to 200 people can attend a Sunday morning mass at St Thomas More Church in West Malling.
The petition, which has gained more than 1,000 signatures, reads: "We understand that the parish is the community and not the building, but surely nobody believes that it can move forward and continue to thrive in makeshift halls.
"We fear that the Catholic parish of St Thomas More will fizzle out leaving hundreds of Catholic families without a place to worship"
Father Peter said: "My concern is for the pre school, as people's livelihoods are there.
"We're a strong community, we used Christmas to grieve but also to come together and prepare for the future.
"A church is not about a building, it's about the people. I believe that we have the strength to go forward."
Father Peter hopes to hold a parish meeting in early January, he added he was "greatly heartened, encouraged and thankful" for the ongoing petition.
West Malling is no stranger to religious scraps with developers.
KMTV report on outrage over the plans
More by this authorLuke May