A BITTER dispute between the church and villagers in Willersey has turned rotten – literally.

The new Bishop of Gloucester, who has faced a backlash from angry residents over diocese plans to sell church land for housing, has been sent hate mail and even packages containing rotten meat, fruit and vegetables.

Villagers in Willersey are desperate to prevent 75 houses being built on church land - but diocese officials are hopeful of flogging the plot for about £3 million.

A public meeting was held in Willersey last week to discuss the controversial matter with the Bishop of Gloucester facing the wrath of local residents.

She attempted to appease the disgruntled community, stating “I do not want to over-house the village” and confirming “no sale has been signed and sealed” yet.

But her repeated promises to listen to concerns did not however satisfy some villagers who want nothing short of the church backing out of any sale, especially after two years were spent approving new homes in the village under the Cotswold Local Plan.

The meeting was the culmination of months of disagreement between the diocese and villagers, who claim the church used “clandestine” tactics in its bid to sell 35 acres of land known of ‘Terrify’.

Lord Geoffrey Dear, representing the village, and Bishop Rachel, representing the diocese, jointly chaired the meeting.

Both sides agreed that the church has a legal right to sell the glebe land – an investment asset used to generate income for the payment of clergy – and much of the debate centred around the diocese’s apparent “insensitive” handling of the matter.

Lord Dear accused the diocese of failing to discuss the planned sale with the village – as Church of England guidance suggests – and then issuing a “deficient” notice that no-one could understand let alone object to.

He claimed that developer Gladman boasted 350 houses could be built on the glebe land once an initial 75 were approved.

Bishop Treweek countered that the diocese was “sympathetic to the total number of new houses in the village”.

She ended the meeting stating “I have heard loud and clear the anger and frustration” and promised to reflect on the strong opinions raised.