A DEVELOPMENT of eight new apartments in Chipping Norton is set to pay for much-need renovations of a dilapidated church.

Worshippers in Chippy will finally be able to return to the baptist church, in New Street, after planning permission was granted to renovate the existing church to retain its use on the ground floor along with a new mezzanine level and create the two-bedroom apartments.

West Oxfordshire District Council's Uplands Planning Committee approved the amended plans by Citadel Spring Ltd and the Baptist Union Corporation Ltd at a meeting last month.

The church has been in a sorry state of disrepair for the last five years and services have been held in Highlands Day Centre while some activities have been in the town hall.

Joe Rice, deacon for the redevelopment of the church, said the renovations were long overdue.

"We've been out the building five years," he said. "It's like a bomb site. We're really pleased to be getting back in there. It has dilapidated over time, people have not been maintaining it.

"There is probably 40 years of dilapidation. It's just not habitable."

Mr Rice said work would have been carried out sooner to renovate the building but a contract with a previous developer fell through about two years ago.

And as part of the £900,000 development, the church would now get a complete overhaul including renovations to the roof which would start sometime between now and February.

"It will be a full renovation," he said. "We've had lots of big holes drilled everywhere to check the structural foundations. Everything will be new. It will seat 100 to 120 people."

Mr Rice added the new apartments would be of benefit to the community despite some people's concerns over parking.

"The highways authority did not see this as an issue," he said. "But it's something we will be monitoring.

"There will be low cost housing for the community. We're also having a communal garden rather than individual gardens, it just suits the whole place much better."