A BITTER row has broken out in a village after a man built an extension next to an old churchyard without planning permission.

Charles Ryan has been accused of “vandalism and desecration” after demolishing a section of stone wall surrounding the former St John the Baptist Church, at Quebec, near Durham, to make way for a two-storey side extension.

Mr Ryan had the extension built to enclose an external steel staircase on a converted outbuilding within the grounds of his home, on Front Street, and has now applied to Durham County Council for retrospective consent for the work.

But the application has sparked outrage in the community and prompted calls for the extension to be pulled down.

Objectors, including neighbours and the Parochial Church Council of St Michael and All Angels, Esh and Hamsteels, say the work was carried out in a cavalier way with no respect given to those buried in the churchyard.

In a letter to planning officers, the church council wrote: “There has been interference with church yard memorials during building, this is an act of vandalism and desecration.

“There are many war graves in this churchyard and whilst none of these have been damaged (thankfully) all the memorials in the church yard are of historical importance, not only to the families to which they belong, but also to the historical heritage of this former mining community.

“This has been confirmed by the number of e-mails we have received from distressed residents living in the village.

“That the building work was undertaken in such a cavalier way and with no respect for those who are buried in the churchyard we also find deeply distressing.”

Objectors also feel the rendered wall is modern, unsympathetic and out of keeping with the setting and say a new drainpipe runs directly into the churchyard.

Mr Ryan has denied the accusations and said the disturbance or breaking of headstones was done during grounds maintenance and through natural deterioration and not by him.

He said he believed the extension could be built under the property’s permitted rights and that he owns the stone wall.

He said: “My wife has lived within the village for the last 70 years, and resided with myself within this property now approaching 40 years.

“Both myself and my wife have relatives within the graveyard and have never caused vandalism or desecration as stated.”

Durham County Council is expected to determine the planning application by October 11.

The Northern Echo:

Objectors don't like the look of the rendered extension, next to the old churchyard at Quebec

The Northern Echo:

The outbuilding which has been extended


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054