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St Thomas More Church in West Malling will go up for sale in the spring

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.

Father Peter Soper outside The Hermitage, his home for the past 20 years in the grounds of St Thomas More RC Church, West Malling. Picture: Chris Davey (25284639)
Father Peter Soper outside The Hermitage, his home for the past 20 years in the grounds of St Thomas More RC Church, West Malling. Picture: Chris Davey (25284639)

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.

Father Peter Soper and the St Thomas More RC Church in Lucks Hill, West Malling. Picture: Chris Davey... (25284649)
Father Peter Soper and the St Thomas More RC Church in Lucks Hill, West Malling. Picture: Chris Davey... (25284649)

Up to 200 people can attend a Sunday morning mass at St Thomas More Church in West Malling.

Parishioners have launched a petition for the Roman Catholic archdiocese to only sell The Hermitage, but keep the pre school and church open.

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.

Father Peter Soper and the parish centre and pre-school at the St Thomas More RC Church in Lucks Hill, West Malling. Picture: Chris Davey... (25284654)
Father Peter Soper and the parish centre and pre-school at the St Thomas More RC Church in Lucks Hill, West Malling. Picture: Chris Davey... (25284654)

"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

In 2019 it fended off an application to build dozens of homes in the shadow of St Mary's Abbey, home to a group of Benedictine nuns.

Visit the petition at tinyurl.com/churchpetitionkm.

Read more: All the latest news from Malling.


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