The new owners of the Baptist Church building in North Street have applied to South Somerset District Council to carry out internal alterations, alterations to boundary treatment and parking provisions. Crewkerne Town Council discussed the planning application at their January meeting of the Planning and Highways Committee. Concerns were raised that councillors had not been able to view the report on the Grade 11 listed building made by the Conservation Officer. Councillors were also concerned that the car parking provision for a four bed-roomed residential dwelling needed to be three spaces not two as indicated and that a section of the boundary wall would need to be removed to allow vehicle access. There was also a lack of outside storage space for bins and recycling waste.
Councillors were confused as to why the planning application stated that it was not an ecclesiastical building and it has since been confirmed that the church building is still in use by Crewkerne and Misterton Baptist Church as a place of worship. The planning application also requests change of use from place of worship to a single dwelling. Property agents Perry Bishop & Chambers who conducted the recent sale of the late 19th Century building, which is still subject to contracts being exchanged, stated “the present use is within D1 of the Classes Order as a place of worship.”
When the church building came up for sale previously in March 2017, John Stuffins Administrator of Crewkerne & Misterton Baptist Church (CMBC) said: “A condition of sale includes a three month period to enable the congregation to relocate to suitable premises elsewhere.” Accommodation at the church building consists of a chapel, vestry, kitchen/servery, cloakroom and stairs leading up to both sides of the gallery. It was built as an extension to the church hall with the front windows added to North Street Chapel in 1880. The church hall, now separately owned and home of The Dance House, was built in 1820 for a group of local Christians to worship together there.
There is currently no vehicular access to the church building off of the public highway and no designated parking spaces on the flagstone/gravel forecourt, where several headstones have been erected over the years. It is understood that no alterations are planned to the iron railings and stone piers which lead on to the pavement and that vehicular access if granted would be from the side lane which leads to Gouldsbrook View.
Crewkerne Town Council deferred making a decision on the planning application until their concerns are addressed. Information received suggests that the buyer of the North Street Chapel is a private limited company based in Dorset who construct and renovate buildings and that it will be offered for sale on the open market when the alterations have been completed. South Somerset District Council are expected to make a decision on the full planning application and request for listed building consent on January 30th but there is strong indication that it will be deferred, pending further consideration.