A VICTORIAN church is set to be given a completely new look including modern glass corridor and ridding the interior of its original pews.

St Matthew’s Church, Leyburn, dates back to 1868, and is typical of churches from the period – but controversial plans have been approved which will see the addition of new offices, kitchen, toilets and a chapel of ease.

Last week Richmondshire District Council planning committee voted in favour of the plans despite a recommendation for refusal by officers, who were concerned that the removal of the original porch and one of the main windows would harm the appearance of the grade II listed building.

They added that a new glass corridor next to the main building would obscure the view to the traditional church yard at the front of the church.

Other plans include the removal of the Victorian pews to create more seating and new working areas for offices and meeting rooms.

At the hearing Rev Michael Hepper, architect Stephen Calvert and Cllr Karin Sedgwick spoke in favour of the project, while resident Catherine Setchfield and Cllr Tony Duff were against. The council received 27 letters of support including Leyburn Town Council and MP Rishi Sunak, and six objections.

Despite some local opposition, most councillors supported the view that the development would not damage the look of the church, but rather enhance it.

It is the church’s aim to make the facilities available for wider public use, with a lunch club, counselling rooms, classes, and a tourist information point.

Rev Hepper, vicar of St Matthew’s Church, said: “I am delighted by the outcome. Now the plans have been approved we can move forward to create a place for the whole community to work, worship and socialise together.”