WINCHESTER civic chiefs have failed in their attempt to buy a church as part of bold plans to revamp a council estate.

The city council made a £810,000 bid for the Family Church in Stanmore Lane after buying the former New Queens Head next door.

But trustees decided instead to sell the church to Level 10 Church in Jewry Street, another evangelical body.

The setback comes after weeks of controversy over proposals to revamp the estate which is among the third most deprived areas in the country.

As previously reported, a number of residents only found out their homes had been earmarked for demolition when they attended a public exhibition.

Council chiefs were forced to issue a statement, saying no properties would be knocked down without the consent of either owner-occupiers or council tenants.

Open space, allotments and garages could also be turned into hundreds of new homes under proposals to develop Stanmore over the next 10 to 15 years.

The council consulted the public on several different options, including relocating the Carroll Centre, the 8th Winchester Scouts Hut and Stanmore Community Association hall to a modern leisure centre on the site of the former New Queens Head.

Now it has emerged the city council never had the funds to build a new centre and hopes for county council cash have been dashed.

The council’s latest idea – which was not included in last month’s public consultation – is to relocate the Carroll Centre to the church building in Stanmore Lane.

Tory city councillor Ian Tait, portfolio holder for new homes delivery, claimed this was still possible despite the city council’s failed bid. Mr Tait said the Carroll Centre could share premises with new owners, Level 10 Church, and there was potential to extend the building onto part of the former New Queens Head site.

Meanwhile the ward city councillor Jamie Scott said he backed keeping the Carroll Centre on its current location and extending it to provide a better facilities for the community association.

Cllr Scott added he was against building on allotments while proposals to turn nine out of 10 garages into housing needed further investigation.

He said: “Clearly the message to Stanmore is we are looking at the master plan final report. We need to be very clear what options – if any – will be taken forward.”

Winchester Family Church revamped the building in Stamore Lane in the late 1980s but moved to the former bingo hall in Middle Brook Street when it became too small for its growing congregation.

Pastor Steve Chick said a decision was made to sell the Stanmore Lane site as most activities were now based in the Middle Brook Centre.

Mr Chick said: “There was no need to advertise the sale of the Stanmore Lane premises as two parties had separately approached the church with a view to buying the building. The church had arranged for the site to be valued. Both interested parties made offers in line with the valuation and after careful consideration the trustees have agreed to sell the Stanmore Lane site to Level 10 Church.”