A PLAN to rip out pews in Evesham’s All Saints’ Church has been condemned by members of its congregation.

Three-quarters of the people who worship at All Saints’ Church, in Market Place, have signed a petition saying proposals to replace the pews with stackable wooden chairs is a waste of £50,000.

With a declining congregation, the parochial church council says it is hoping to turn the building into a ‘flexible multi-function space’ by using the chairs.

But Merry Privett, one of the members behind the petition, hopes enough opposition has been rallied to have the proposals thrown out.

She said people would not object to the pews being removed if they were “rusty old fixed pews which did not allow any flexible use of space”. But she said the pews in All Saints are movable and in good condition.

“Should the church be spending such large sums of money on this venture at a time of austerity and falling incomes when it should be doing more to reach out to those in need?” she said.

“The majority of the congregation feel we are being pressured into this by the Diocese and a small group of mainly newcomers on the parochial church council.”

However, the Archdeacon of Worcester, the Venerable Roger Morris, said churches must adapt with the times to survive. He said: “The church was built over 800 years ago and has undergone several alterations over the years – the local architect Frederick Preedy restored the interior of the church in 1872 and removed all the 17th century fittings that had previously been in the church.

“Church buildings have always been adapted to suit the needs of the generation it serves.

What is proposed will preserve the church as a beautiful historic building while also making it fit for purpose as a spiritual and community resource.”

A period of public consultation on the plans ended on Tuesday and Worcester Diocese will now write to everyone who has objected.

A public hearing may be called before a final decision.

The dispute is a flashback to similarly controversial plans to replace pews with chairs in Pershore Abbey almost 15 years ago.

After a long-running saga, a church court ruled on a compromise solution – with nave pews retained but modified and chairs introduced into side aisles.