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Green light for Powys medieval church restored in the 19th century to be converted into community hub

24 Mar 2022 3 minute read
St Andrew’s Church, Norton

Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter

Plans to convert an unused church near Presteigne have been given the green light by Powys planners.

Last year Norton Community Trust submitted both change of use and listed building consent planning applications to turn, Grade II listed St Andrew’s Church in Norton, into a “community hub.”

In 2020, following many years of declining attendance and an ongoing lack of funds for maintenance, Church in Wales, in consultation with the local community, took the decision to declare St Andrew’s church redundant.

Due to this, Norton Community Trust (NCT) was created to preserve the building and to adapt it so that the community can use it.

The main changes would be to remove the pews from nave and transepts, upgrade the heating system, relocate the font, and put in accessible toilet and kitchen facilities below the belfry.

A lease with the Church in Wales to take control of the building had been provisionally approved.

A font which will be moved as part of the renovation and pews that will be removed as part of the renovation.

Powys County Councillor for Presteigne, Cllr Beverley Baynham had initially “called-in” the application to be decided by councillors on the Powys Planning committee due to the “sensitive nature of the building” and community interest.

However, in October last year, she withdrew the request which allowed the application to be decided by planning officers.

Planning case officer, Gwyn Humphreys said:  “Upon initial consultation, the built heritage officer raised several areas of concern with the proposed development, and in light of the comments provided, the agent, during the course of the application, has submitted amended and additional plans for consideration.

“It is noted the amended and additional plans now form the basis of the application.”

He added that the “comprehensive” comments by the built heritage officer form the “main basis” of assessing the implications of the proposal.

‘Virtually complete’

Gwyn Humphreys added that there had been concern on the “economics” of the proposal and he addressed this in his report.

Mr Humphreys said: “Given that the church has been declared as redundant and is not currently in use, the local planning authority consider it appropriate for other potential uses of the building to be considered in an attempt to secure the future of the building.

“It is noted that no similar facility to that proposed as part of the application currently exists in Norton.

“It is therefore considered that the principle of a public hall within Norton is accepted.”

He gave the plans conditional consent.

When the project is completed it is expected that regular events using the former church will include coffee mornings, exercise classes, a book exchange, mother & baby classes, and clubs such as gardening, history and film.

The venue would also be available for hire for events such as music concerts, arts, and heritage exhibitions.

The building is listed because it is a “virtually complete example” of the rural work of Sir George Gilbert Scott.

The original medieval church was restored by Scott in 1868.

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