A £700,000 five-bedroom home may seem extravagant for just one person. All the more so when that person is spearheading a threatened cull of up to 15 churches.

Yet church leaders insist their purchase of an impressive new home in Dyke Road Avenue, Hove, for the Venerable Douglas McKittrick is a canny financial move.

Mr McKittrick, Archdeacon of Chichester, is vice-chairman of the Brighton and Hove Deaneries Pastoral Strategy Review Group, which has proposed the controversial church closures.

Places of worship under threat include St Peter's in the centre of Brighton and All Saints in Hove. Falling congregations have made them financially unviable.

Last year it cost £2 million to provide stipendiary clergy for Brighton and Hove and running costs stretched to £1 million.

Each parish has promised to provide £1.2 million but the Diocese of Chichester said it could no longer afford the shortfall.

When the review group reported in June, Mr McKittrick said: "It is a terrible pity and breaks my heart but the reality is we cannot expect the diocese to keep on pouring in hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants."

When he was appointed archdeacon last November, Mr McKittrick became the first postholder to be based in Brighton rather than Chichester.

He had been the vicar of St Peter's with the Chapel Royal in Brighton since 1997 and was living at St Peter's Vicarage in West Drive, Brighton.

Despite his new post he opted to remain there, which meant the archdeaconry in Chichester remained empty.

That building is now up for sale, valued at £1.3 million.

St Peter's Vicarage is now being rented out privately. Mr McKittrick's new home was bought for just under £700,000.

A statement from the diocese to The Argus said the Hove home was chosen due to its "excellent" road links from around the diocese.

It was also said that, because it was new, it would have lower maintenance costs than the older Chichester house.

Dr Clive Dilloway, chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance, said: "The new archdeaconry is in an ideal location for the current and future archdeacons of the diocese.

"The new property has been purchased at a significantly lower cost than the old property is being sold for."

Diocese spokesman Simon Steers said when the Chichester archdeaconry was sold, this would free up extra money which could be pumped into local churches.

He was also adamant the diocese was right to buy such a large property, even though Mr McKittrick, who is single, would be living there alone.

Mr Steers said: "It doesn't belong to the archdeacon, it belongs to the diocese. The property is a good investment.

"It's been bought not just for Father Douglas but for future archdeacons, so we had to cater for priests who may have large families.

"I'm sure he will also use parts of it for office space as well. Archdeacon is a senior position in the church and the house reflects that."

He added the church was providing Mr McKittrick with the house in the same way all stipendiary clergy were given accommodation.

Mr McKittrick was unavailable for comment.