Contractor Mowlem is taking the former rector of a Basildon church to court next month to establish his role in a non-payment dispute over a bell tower.
The High Court action, revealed on Building's website news service LiveNews, follows threats from Mowlem that it would tear down the 27 m tower unless it is paid £500,000 by St Martin's parochial church council.

The man allegedly behind the project, Canon Lionel Webber, has been called to give evidence on 2 July.

Mowlem has already secured a county court action against the parish council but the High Court found in April that it did not have enough money to pay the debt.

A Mowlem spokesman said the company had tried to obtain payment during the bell tower's construction in 1998 and 1999. It continued with the work even though it had not been paid.

The spokesman said: "During our discussions with the parish church council we have made it clear that dismantling the bell tower is one of many options available, but we are also continuing to explore other avenues in an effort to secure all the sums due. We are trying to resolve the situation amicably."

Basildon's bell tower was opened by the Queen in summer 1999 to commemorate the new town's 50th anniversary.

It now stands unused because of the dispute.