IT could be three months before repairs start to a village church near Alresford gutted by a devastating fire.

The burned-out building in Ropley is still too unsafe for investigators to begin their work more than a month after the blaze.

Andy Bonner, of Friends of St Peter’s, has been coordinating the rebuild, and says it could take even longer before work starts.

“The scaffolding should be done about two weeks from now,” he said.

“Nothing has started because we are still trying to get the bell secure. It will be a month or more before anything can be done, it could be three months or more. Nobody can get in, it isn’t safe. It’s the nature of these things, they take a long time. It’s very frustrating for everybody but it has to be done properly and safely.”

Rev Royston Such, vicar for 24 years, said: “We are in the hands of the professionals now. Everyone is very aware of it and as you go past you still have that deep sense of unhappiness.

“My great relief has been that the weather has been kind to us because storms might have been quite damaging.”

More than 100 firefighters tackled the blaze, which destroyed century’s old medieval architecture, records dating back to the 1960s, the pulpit, and a 16th century font.

The roof and bell tower were left in tatters, and it is so unsafe fire crews have been unable to investigate – over five weeks later.

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Following the severe fire at St Peter's church in Ropley on June 19, the historic building was left very badly damaged. The extent of the damage has so far made it unsafe to re-enter the church in order to carry out investigations into the cause of the fire.

“However, work is currently taking place to make the building safe to enter. When this is completed, we will carry out a joint investigation into the cause alongside a firm working on behalf of the church.”

Mr Such now leads worship at nearby Monkswood Mission Church, in Petersfield Road.