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New homes plan for the site of Norfolk's tiniest chapel

PUBLISHED: 13:38 17 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:14 17 August 2019

A former Second World War army hut, the former Bethel Chapel in Diss could be demolished as part of plans for housing. Picture: Simon Parkin

A former Second World War army hut, the former Bethel Chapel in Diss could be demolished as part of plans for housing. Picture: Simon Parkin

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Plans have been submitted to demolish one of Norfolk's smallest places of worship and build three new houses on the site.

Based in a former army hut built in 1942 as part of the wartime effort, Bethel Chapel on Victoria Road in Diss held its final service last December.

Dwindling congregations meant organisers at the tiny non denominational chapel, where services had been given by visiting preachers, decide to close its doors.

Secretary Joan Bassett with her son Pastor Mark Bassett at the former Bethel Chapel in Diss. Picture: Sonya DuncanSecretary Joan Bassett with her son Pastor Mark Bassett at the former Bethel Chapel in Diss. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Since its closure the site has become overgrown and now Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches is seeking outline planning permission for the residential redevelopment on the site for up to three new houses, parking and improved access onto the busy Victoria Road.

In its submission to South Norfolk Council the fellowship states: "The site is occupied by the Bethel Mission Hall and has been used as a place of worship for several decades. However, the hall was last used as a place of worship in December 2018 and is now vacant.

Workshippers entering the final service at the former Bethel Chapel in Diss. Picture: Sonya DuncanWorkshippers entering the final service at the former Bethel Chapel in Diss. Picture: Sonya Duncan

"The site has not been used in an efficient manner for several years. The site has been substantially underused, and is now entirely unused.

"Moreover, the nature of the site is such that it does not make a meaningful or effective contribution to the social cohesion of the town or community."

Indicitive site layout plans for three new houses on the site of the Bethel Chapel in Diss. Picture: Berrys/South Norfolk CouncilIndicitive site layout plans for three new houses on the site of the Bethel Chapel in Diss. Picture: Berrys/South Norfolk Council

It adds that the proposed development will be of high-quality design and appearance and constructed from materials reflecting the design and character of the nearby properties, but detailed designs would be agreed at a later stage.

Over the decades the tiny chapel welcomed generations of worshippers and when Jack and Hilda Thrower moved to Stuston Road, behind Bethel Mission Hall, they began sourcing preachers for afternoon and evening services.

Workshippers at the final service at the former Bethel Chapel in Diss. Picture: Sonya DuncanWorkshippers at the final service at the former Bethel Chapel in Diss. Picture: Sonya Duncan

At one time it held Sunday schools with children collected around the town in a van. Prayer meetings also took place on Tuesday evenings and it hosted mid-week groups and community activities.

When Jack died suddenly in 1995, Hilda carried on with help from Cecil and Joan Bassett. Hilda died in 1999 but the Bassetts continued until the final service.

The former Bethel Chapel site in Diss has bcome overgrown since its last service in December 2018. Picture: Simon ParkinThe former Bethel Chapel site in Diss has bcome overgrown since its last service in December 2018. Picture: Simon Parkin

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