'Community hub' plans for church in bid to make building more modern and accessible for residents
Proposals to set up a ‘community hub’ at a village church in County Durham are being considered by planning chiefs.
Earlier this month, plans were lodged with Durham County Council for the Sherburn Hill Methodist Church, off Front Street, in the Sherburn Hill area.
According to the planning application, the new leaseholder aims to make the building more accessible to the community and bring it up to date.
However, the site would still be used as a place of worship and would continue to be owned by the church.
The proposed works include increasing entrance space, incorporating a cloakroom area, changing the exterior of the building and removing the church pews and organ.
If the plans are approved, the space is expected to be used by a ballet and music school, alongside the church, and a range of other daytime classes.
The application form reads: “The church [pews] and organ will be removed due to wear and tear and modern seating and an ecclesiastical form of worship introduced.
“The lease will allow a ballet and music school to use the building alongside the church as well as daytime fitness classes for adults, coffee mornings and mother and toddler groups.
“The building will be mixed purpose suitable for a widespread community base. The church has always had a congregation capacity of circa 140 and there are no plans to exceed this capacity.
“On street parking directly outside the church has always been sufficient for the congregation and with class sizes significantly less we see no problems occurring regarding parking.”
According to the application, the church is currently closed due to Covid-19 but still has a “dedicated congregation.”
The statement adds the “church proposed this lease as a way to fund their ministry as the lease will provide them with financial stability.”
It also stressed that the church “has always been [a] place of gathering and there are no plans to change this.”
Proposed opening hours for the community hub are 9am-9pm, Monday to Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sundays.
Durham County Council’s planning department is expected to rule on the application by mid-April.
Comments can be made by writing to the council’s planning department or visiting its online portal.
For more information, visit https://publicaccess.durham.gov.uk/online-applications and search planning reference: DM/21/00450/FPA