A decision on a church demolition application in west Reading has been deferred to allow for an independent heritage assessment.

Committee members felt unable to decide on whether to approve The Gate's application to turn the almost 120-year old 'The Gate' church on Oxford Road into a three-story development of community halls and 10 flats.

Councillor Karen Rowland, vice-chair of the planning applications committee, said the heritage statement did not follow guidelines and called for an independent heritage consultant to deliver new advice.

Resident Emma Thomas said: “Once flattened it will be lost forever. It is part of the area, part of the history.”

Ward councillor Graeme Hoskin also spoke against the application, saying losing too many historic buildings would fundamentally change the character of the area

English Heritage said, in 2009, that ‘the quality of the chapel’s exterior and the local standing of its architect give it considerable significance’ in Reading, but ‘the external architectural quality is not sufficiently high to outweigh the loss of the interior’.

The new building would have 30 per cent affordable housing offer at the site and said the new development and Agent Daniel Almond said it would preserve and mirror the historical aspects of the chapel.

Councillor Ed Hopper questioned what would happen to the site if The Gate’s applications continued to be rejected, with the organisation having had several applications rejected at the site.

He said: "If this church decide that they can't make enough money out of what they are able to put forward, they will sell it to someone less and it will be converted into flats.”

He added: “Is the church there to fund giving a nice view to neighbours?”

The Gate currently hold church services at their Meadway site, while hosting church groups and other events at the 553 Oxford Road building.

Under the development plans, the self-proclaimed 'church without walls' would maintain a community presence on Oxford Road.