Plans to extend the runway at Southend Airport are likely to be considered by the Secretary of State after being rejected by Southend Borough Council.
The church would have to be moved to extend the runway
The airport authorities had claimed that tough new safety regulations meant the nearby 1,000-year-old St Laurence's Church would have to be moved or demolished.
Many local people opposed the plans saying it would mean more noise and disruption.
On Wednesday night councillors unanimously refused the airport's planning application.
After the meeting airport director Roger Campbell said they would not be giving up.
He said he was still hopeful the application would succeed, despite the council's initial rejection.
The church is 1,000 years old
Last week he assured local residents that the future of the church was assured whatever the outcome of the planning application.
He said the expansion was needed to comply with modern aviation safety requirements - especially if the airport was to consider expanding its number of passenger flights.
The proposal was one of the largest to be submitted to the council.