Barnstaple’s old Roman catholic church is back on the agenda with a public meeting this week and news the church wants to ‘find a new sustainable future’ for the listed building.

The former Catholic church in Barnstaple. Picture: Sarah HowellsThe former Catholic church in Barnstaple. Picture: Sarah Howells

Last year church authorities were refused planning permission by North Devon Council (NDC) to demolish St Mary's Church near Barnstaple bus station and replace it with a community garden.

They appealed but withdrew it earlier this month and now the Diocese of Plymouth has brought in two historic building experts to help find a use for the building.

In a statement issued on January 27, it said Sophie Andreae, the vice-chair of the Patrimony Committee of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and historic building consultant David Scott from Cornwall, will now be working with the diocese as it explores fresh options for the building, together with North Devon Council and Historic England.

Ms Andreae said: "Barnstaple is a large parish and many years ago it was decided that the old St Mary's Church, built in the mid-1800s, was too small to support its congregation.

The old Barnstaple Catholic church has been closed for many years. Picture: Andy KeebleThe old Barnstaple Catholic church has been closed for many years. Picture: Andy Keeble

"A new, larger church was built close by in the 1980s, and the old building has been unused since then.

"David and I are both looking forward to working with the council and Historic England, and with the local parish and community, to find an appropriate new use for the building."

An open public meeting to discuss the future of the building has also been called for Thursday, January 30 at The Voice meeting room at Belle Meadow Court at 7pm.

It will be chaired by Councillor Robbie Mack and be attended by NDC officers as well as members of the Barnstaple Building Preservation Trust.

In 2016 the Gazette was given permission to see inside the listed building. Picture: Andy KeebleIn 2016 the Gazette was given permission to see inside the listed building. Picture: Andy Keeble

Simon Harvey, a former town councillor who researched the area including the church as part of a book to celebrate Barnstaple Elephant Day, said it was important to try and achieve a future for the building.

He said: "Turning it into a garden will attract anti-social behaviour in the area. What the church was going to do was not in the interests of the people of Barnstaple.

"The meeting is for people to discuss how they feel and what they feel we might be able to do with the building."

And Mr Harvey revealed he had appealed to the supreme authority in the Catholic Church. He said: "I have been in contact with the Pope to see if he has a view on this.

Inside the old Barnstaple Catholic church in 2016. Picture: Andy KeebleInside the old Barnstaple Catholic church in 2016. Picture: Andy Keeble

"You never know with these things - it was worth a try."