Brighton and Hove has been given two weeks to save its most prominent church - known as the "city's cathedral" - from closure.

Wardens, parishioners and residents are in shock after learning St Peter's Church in York Place, the parish church of Brighton, is expected to shut.

A letter from the Diocesan Pastoral Committee, a Church of England body in charge of churches in the city, said that "after much heart searching" they were going to recommend that the landmark building be made "redundant".

Its congregation, which can number 90 on a Sunday and 2,000 at Christmas services, would be sent to other churches in the area.

Options on the church's future will be considered in the next two weeks before a final decision is made and the result announced on March 19.

The committee said all views would be welcomed during the consultation period but it was making a recommendation to the Right Reverend John Hind, Bishop of Chichester, that the church should close.

It is not yet known what would happen to the iconic building after it was closed.

Church wardens Mary Woodhouse and Steve Pates have called a meeting on Sunday February 18 with the congregation to decide on what action to take.

In a letter sent to everyone on the St Peter's ward electoral register they said there were some very important decisions to make over the next two weeks before a meeting with the Parochial Church Council on February 22.

They said there were three options - either do nothing and allow redundancy to take its course, set a date for imminent closure or get together and organise a fight.

Mrs Woodhouse said: "There have been threats before but not like this.

"It is crunch time now, even if it has been rumbling for quite a while.

"People seem shocked to hear they are trying to close us down and we want to fight. But we have to make sure that is what everyone else wants and that they are all behind us."

In 2005, St Peter's was one of 11 churches in the area earmarked for closure by a Church of England review.

It said that just 1.7 per cent of the city's population goes to church and so there was little point in keeping them open.

The report said the landmark church was one of the victims of falling congregations and was too expensive to run.

Mrs Woodhouse said the reasons given by the Diocesan Pastoral Committee for the proposed closure were that its congregation was not big enough and there were not as many clubs and groups which met there.

She said: "It is true we haven't got a huge congregation but it is no worse than a lot of others around here and we have a strong musical tradition and a regular choir.

"We also get a lot of people coming into the church during the day to say a prayer or to light a candle or just have a look around.

"We understand finances are difficult and we have tried to suggest all sorts of schemes such as using some of the space as a community hall but they are always turned down.

"They just keep saying that we can just go somewhere else - which isn't very Christian, is it?"

Magda Traverso, 81, of Whitehawk Road, Brighton, said she had been a regular at the church for 15 years.

She said: "I am very sad at the news.

"It is such a nice church but it must cost thousands of pounds to keep it going.

"It will be a very sad day to see it go.

"We have to do something and fight - we can't just sit here and let it go."

Greg Hadfield, 50, of Surrenden Road, Brighton, said he only occasionally went to services but would be devastated to see what he considered to be one of Brighton's most iconic buildings to go.

He said: "The people of Brighton have got to get behind their community church and re-energise it.

"It cannot just be saved by the congregation, it needs the support of the whole community."

He added: "It is the gateway to the city and one of the first things people entering the city via Lewes or London Road see.

"If this was Barcelona or Paris or any other city there is no way they would allow this to happen to what is essentially our cathedral."

The Argus tried to call the Diocesan Pastoral Committee for comment but no one was available.

  • The meeting is open to everyone concerned about the future of the church and will be held at the church on Sunday, February 18 after the 9.30am service.