A rural Herefordshire community is locked in a planning battle with the council – over the positioning of a church loo.

Locals say St Matthew’s Church, Marstow, near Ross-on-Wye, is the area’s only public resource. They have recently raised £179,000, including a lottery grant of £105,000 for structural repairs to create a new community space within the church, and to put in an accessible outside toilet.

But when church representatives tried to confirm the lawfulness of the loo, the council’s building conservation officer Conor Ruttledge said its current position by the side of the church “harmed its setting” and that the timber-framed toilet “encroaches on several historic gravestones”.

Yet there were other spots in the churchyard “where its impact on the church, gravestones, and views towards these elements would be minimised”, his report said.


Church representatives say moving the toilet would cost about £6,000, which it does not have. And they dispute whether the structure is intrusive – particularly as it is now partly screened by new hedging.

Chair of the Marstow parochial church council Sue Rolfe said that with its easy access, the toilet has already been an asset to weddings and community events in the church. “But we have run out of steam for any more fundraising.”

Churchwarden Phyll Hannah added: “How can a small community be expected to find £6,000 to move a toilet less than 10 yards on the whim of one person?”

A spokesperson for Herefordshire Council said it could not comment on a live application.