A JUDGE has given the go-ahead for controversial plans to replace traditional pews with modern seating at one of the largest churches in the city centre despite strong objections from conservation groups.

A plan to replace traditional pews with 300 modern seats at the grade II-listed All Saints Church in Deansway was heavily criticised by conservation groups including the Victorian Society, Historic England and the Georgian Group.

The church said it wants to make the space to be used for other activities outside of church services.

Charles Mynors, chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester, in his role as a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court which has to grant consent for such changes, has waived the opposition and allowed the refurbishment to go ahead.

Chancellor Mynors said: “I am satisfied that the long-term interest of preserving the building – quite apart from ensuring the flourishing of the congregation – will best be served by letting it be used in a way that reflects the needs of today, rather than those of 130 years ago.

“I therefore conclude that the removal of pews and their replacement with modern chairs, will not of itself be harmful to the overall significance of the church.

“I think it is likely that any harm that may arise to the character of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest will be more than outweighed by the practical benefits arising from the proposed new scheme.”

Historic England said it was concerned the wholesale removal of the pews and the new seats would detract from the character of the inside of the building.

The Reverend Rich Johnson, vicar of All Saints, said: “We want to open up All Saints to the community, and for it to be a venue for community.

“With the introduction of kitchen facilities and flexible seating, the unique and beautiful space of All Saints will become a versatile venue for children’s groups, parties, banquets, concerts, and conferences and more – things we long to do.”

The Archdeacon of Worcester, Robert Jones, said: “This is an exciting example of what the church has done throughout the centuries - adapting itself to meet the opportunities of today. I am sure the people of All Saints will be encouraged by this decision, as they seek to love God and serve their community here in the middle of Worcester.”