CONTROVERSIAL plans to demolish a village church hall in Upton and replace with a new "faith" building have been unanimously approved.

Councillors voted in favour of the plan for St Mary's Church, which will provide a complex of church hall and community facilities with improved car parking and landscaping.

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

The attractive Victorian house Holmleigh, which is presently used as church meeting rooms and offices, will be demolished.

A protest petition opposing the scheme had been signed by more than 230 people and 80 letters of objection lodged with Wirral planning authority.

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

Objections to the scheme included 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.

Campaigners also claimed the new building will be out of keeping with the area and the listed church because of its unsypathetic design.

Addressing committee members on behalf of more than 50 residents who attended the meeting, Andrew Nicholson said: "Hundreds of people in the local community will be and personally affected by this development.

"We believe the proposal fails every element of local and national planning policy and fails Wirral Council planning guidelines.

"Many people feel very personal about Holmleigh. People are more important than buildings."

Graham Skinner, vicar of St Mary's, said: "It's very clear that this is an opportune time for the church to do something with its building to bring it up-to-date.

"Residents would be enriched by its development."

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.

The report considered by Wirral planning committee on Wednesday said: "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."

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."