CONTENTIOUS plans to build a new 25-space car park at a village church near Winchester have been deferred for a month.

The proposal for land next to St Swithun’s Church, in Headbourne Worthy, has been recommended for approval and was due to be debated at Thursday’s meeting of Winchester City Council planning committee.

But chief planning officer Julie Pinnock told the committee that it had been put back until next month. No reason was given.

Headbourne Worthy Parochial Church Council proposes a car park because there is currently none in place and churchgoers have to park in a field across London Road.

The plans have divided opinion, receiving seven letters of objection, and eight in support.

Issues range from concerns over the visibility of the cars ruining the rural setting of the church, to the allegedly excessive number of spaces.

However, those supporting the scheme argue it would mean people would no longer have to cross a “dangerous” road to get to the church.

Natural England has expressed concern saying it could have “significant potential impact on the River Itchen Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest.”

Historic England said: “The introduction of a car park and parked cars is likely to have a harmful impact on the rural and undeveloped setting of the church.”

But it added that the car park would be screened: “The low level of harm that would remain would be outweighed by the broader heritage benefit of supporting the sustainable use of the church as a place of worship and other community activities.”

Before the proposal was deferred the planning officers were recommending that it be approved.