A statue of Jesus at a former convent in Dagenham has found a new home in Southend this week after an agreement between The Sacred Heart Church in the seaside town and Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering regeneration company.

The celestial move will allow Be First to develop the former Sacred Heart Convent into dozens of new affordable homes.

Jennie Coombs, head of affordable housing at Be First, said: “Due to redevelopment of the convent site, the statue would no longer be within public view, as it would have ended up in a private garden.

“So, we contacted the Sacred Heart at Southend who were able to find a new home for it further down the A13. It means worshipers and the general public will still be able to see this beautiful statue.”

Fr Graham Smith of Sacred Heart Church in Southend, said: “We in the Catholic parish of Sacred Heart in Southend are very grateful to the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Dagenham for enabling us to give this statue a home. It will stand at the front of the church as a witness to the local community.

“Our church stands on a very busy road in Southchurch and my personal hope is that everyone who sees the statue will be reminded of the love of Jesus Christ for everyone.

“The statue depicts Jesus with his arms open wide as an open invitation to all to experience his love and mercy.”

The redevelopment of the convent in Goresbrook Road will produce 29 new affordable homes which will be rented at below local market rates.

Ms Coombs added: “These quality new homes will be among the most affordable in London and the borough.”