One issue that raised serious concern was the recent planning application to extend 2-4 Green Lane, the old Bank Chambers by adding an extra story and converting it into 5 flats. The owners of the building were recently granted planning permission on appeal to convert it into a place of worship, ruling against the majority of the local community very worried about making the parking and traffic problems in the immediate area even worse. The WPRA had helped gather nearly 8,000 petition signatures and almost 1,000 letters of objection were also sent.
Whist it was thought likely that the plan to convert the building into flats would mean the plans for a Place Of Worship had been abandoned, some felt that the building could be extended and then afterwards the permission for a place of worship could be utilised, meaning an even bigger place of worship on the site.
The WPRA Chairman, Simon Densley agreed to contact local councillors with these concerns and see if anything could be done to prevent this situation. Simon Contacted Cllr Arthur Hookway with the following list of questions to be put to the council legal department or relevant council officers:
- Does the granting of permanent permission for the site to be used as a place of worship require an entirely new planning application which can be granted or denied by the planning committee or is the decision completely dependent on the usage according to the conditions set in the granted approval in May 2015?
- Is the granting of permanent permission in 2019 automatic if no conditions are breached, or does it require some demonstration of the site being used according to the planning permission sought and granted, together with having fulfilled all conditions.
- If permanent permission is granted in May 2019, which of the conditions placed on the granted application will still apply and which may be lifted?
- Is it possible to make it a condition of receiving planning permission to extend the building, that the permission for a place of worship be revoked?
- If no effort is made to develop the building into a place of Worship, is planning permission automatically revoked for this development after a period of time? If so how long?
- How much development would need to be done in order to avoid such permission being automatically revoked, and could be covered by the early work of redeveloping the site as flats?
- Is there any way we can ensure the scenario as set out above cannot occur?
Cllr Hookway organised a meeting with council planning officers to be attended by Simon and also Cllr Richard Marston.
The meeting proved fruitful as Council officers explained what could and could not happen in relation to this scenario. In Summary:
- After the temporary permission for a Place of Worship comes to an end in May 2019, an entirely new planning application would need to be submitted by the applicant which would be subject to the same scrutiny and considerations as any other planning application. There would be no automatic granting of permanent permission.
- If the applicant has not demonstrated the use of the site as a Place of Worship within the conditions set by the appeal decision, there would be no precedent to grant permanent permission and the applicant would be very unlikely to gain anything more than another 4 years' temporary permission with the same conditions.
- Once development of the site into flats has commenced, the permission for the site as a Place of Worship is automatically lost.
So in short, there is no automatic permission for a Place of Worship granted after the 4-year temporary permission is up, regardless of whether the conditions are met - it would require a whole new planning application. Building flats on the site automatically revokes the permission to turn the site into a Place of Worship. So residents concerned at the possibility of the flats being a ruse to create a bigger Place of Worship will be glad to know this can not be the case.