DEMOLITION plans for Eldwick Church have been mothballed following heated opposition by villagers and the shock resignation of its minister after an internet campaign which "put the boot in", according to church elders.

The church has a growing membership and had drawn up schemes to demolish or dramatically extend the building on Otley Road.

But a vehement campaign, led by Eldwick's Village Society, opposed the extension.

It included strong criticism of the plan online and a poll which showed 357 in favour of an extension and only 25 voting for demolition - the later being church elders' preferred option.

Ecumenical Eldwick Church houses integrated Anglican and Methodist worshippers and at its annual meeting on Sunday its minister, the Rev Helen Hodgson, announced both schemes had been shelved for six months and that she was stepping down.

"I have walked with the church through these recent explorations and have travelled as far as I can.

"I see the value of a new person to lead as they continue to wrestle with questions of buildings and finance," she wrote in her farewell letter.

"I believe this needs to be someone well-equipped in these areas."

The trustees will now take six months to review the situation, however doing nothing was not an option, the minister said.

Churchwarden Richard Arnold said the level of opposition had hurt many worshippers.

"There are a lot of people feeling bruised and we need to step back and draw breath.

"There was some nasty stuff on social media which really put the boot and the knife into Helen.

"It was complete and utter nonsense, saying things like the sums involved had been manipulated," Mr Arnold said.

"It shows how social media can be run by a few people using sarcasm and provocative language, not fact."

Mr Arnold said the local vote coincided with the church realising it could not afford either the £1.41 million demolition and new build scheme or the £1.61m extension plan.

"Without total community support we could not hope to get necessary outside grants or financial help," he said.

A new lower cost and smaller scale expansion plan will now be developed.

Fellow trustee Chris O'Neill said: "People were devastated when Helen announced on Sunday she was going half way through her five years and many were in tears.

"There was a lot of pathetic rubbish on the internet, but I've largely just laughed it off."

The Eldwick Village Society declined to comment on the latest development.

But Eldwick historian and anti-demolition campaigner Allan Mirfield said: "I'm delighted with this initial drawback and look forward to any other simple development - such as just replacing the old timber church hall."