A decision on whether to demolish a church and replace it with a three-storey development has been delayed once again.

Councillors voted to defer a decision on the development in December, to allow for an independent heritage assessment and will now carry out a site visit.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) locally listed the Grovelands Baptist Church building, on 553 Oxford Road, as recently as November 2018.

The Gate, a ‘church without walls' organisation, hopes to turn the site into a three-story development of community halls and 10 flats.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for planning, said he had difficulty approving the application and the committee would be ‘ill advised’ to rush approval.

Conservative councillor Ed Hopper, who called for approval at the December meeting, reiterated his belief that a decision needs to be made.

He said: "Bearing in mind how long this has been going on, over the last six or seven years, we need to make a decision so they can get on with it."

However, a majority of the committee voted to defer a decision to visit the site.

An application to list the building was sent to English Heritage in 2008, but due to significant alteration of the interior they concluded that the site did not meet the high threshold of national significance required for listing.

Cllr Page compared the application to another plan to demolish two Victorian houses and build 25 retirement units on Craven Road, near the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

The committee rejected the application at the former hospital site and an appeal by the developer was rejected by a government inspector.

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 has previously 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.”

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 church would maintain a community presence on Oxford Road.