Church flats plan finally gets go-ahead

CONTROVERSIAL plans to demolish a historic church hall in Motherwell and build flats have finally been approved - 12 years after the idea was first raised.

A Scottish Government official has overturned a decision by North Lanarkshire Council to refuse planning permission for the Holy Trinity Church project in Crawford Street.

The ruling came days after the Standards Commission for Scotland cleared two councillors of misconduct over the handling of the planning application.

The church and its now derelict hall are 120 years old and redevelopment would give the congregation money to carry out much-needed work on the church building.

However, despite its state, the hall is a listed building and permission to demolish it was refused. The council’s planning committee also said a block of six flats was out of keeping with the surrounding area.

The church appealed against the decisions and now Jill Moody, a Scottish Government Reporter, has ruled in its favour.

She said the hall has had ‘considerable charm’ but the cost of essential repairs would be around £400,000 and the church has been unable to find anyone interested in buying it.

Ms Moody said: “Repair is not an option and a sensitively designed residential development could easily improve the streetscene and local amenity.”

Rev Alan Wylie, of Holy Trinity Church, welcomed the decision, saying: “We began looking at the potential of the site 12 years ago and the initial outline planning application was submitted seven years ago.

“It’s been a long, hard journey so finally I feel commonsense has prevailed.

“This project is vital for the future of the church. With a 120-year-old building there is always something to be done - we need a new heating system, for example.”

Last week the Standards Commission cleared Motherwell councillors Paul Kelly and Michael Ross of misconduct over the Holy Trinity saga.

Mr Wylie reported the pair after they admitted discussing the issue before the planning committee meeting at which Councillor Kelly moved the application be refused.

Coucillor Ross, whose father lives near the church and objected to the proposal, denied trying to influence the committee’s decision.