PLANS for the demolition of a village church hall and its replacement with a new "faith" building have divided the villagers of Upton.

Battle lines have been drawn both for and against the St Mary's Church venture, which will provide a complex of church hall and community facilities with improved car parking and landscaping.

A protest petition opposing the scheme has been signed by 137 people and 80 letters of objection have been lodged with Wirral planning authority.

But these have been more than matched by a petition of support signed by 267 people and 163 letters from people in favour of the project.

Demolition plans also include the attractive Victorian house Holmleigh, presently used as church meeting rooms and offices.

Objections to the scheme include the loss of Holmleigh; the potential increase in street parking and traffic hazards leading to damage to local businesses; loss of trees and further late night noise from increased church activities.

They further claim that the new building will be out of keeping with the area and the listed church because of its unsypathetic design.

The proposed new building is a two-storey development which will include a meeting hall/activity room, refreshment and toilet areas, offices, storage space and a circulation "hub."

The proposal provides for a further five parking spaces on the site - from 38 to 43.

Planners recognise that one of the main concerns of objectors relate to existing traffic problems in the area and the potential worsening of the situation as a result of the proposed development.

In a report to Wirral planning committee this week they say: "Given the evidence of objectors there are clearly occasions when parking and traffic create problems. What is unclear is how far this is a result of church activity and what is not."

Approval of the proposal, they say, would need the submission of a "travel plan" which would formalise arrangements for management of other forms of mitigation such as car sharing.

Recommending approval of the scheme planners state: "The proposals will result in a modern church and community facility which has a simple design and appearance to harmonise with existing buildings and landscaping on site."