If the unused Methodist chapel in Bainbridge is converted to provide affordable housing it could pave the way for similar projects throughout North Yorkshire, a council official has said.
Amanda Madden, rural housing enabler for Richmondshire District Council, told a meeting of Bainbridge parish council that the local Methodist Circuit had been selling off its empty churches at the rate of one a year for the past five to seven years.
“Now they have decided they need to look at alternative options, and affordable housing is classed as a community use in planning terms,” said Ms Madden.
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“The [North Yorkshire Dales] Circuit are supporting me in looking at this and in setting up a legal body that would encompass any future chapels that may come along in the future. They have already undertaken a community led housing project in London so are keen to see if we can make it work here in North Yorkshire.”
She said the Methodist Church would retain ownership of the property, and, like all community led housing, it would never be subject to right-to-buy: they could never be sold but would always have to remain affordable. The Methodist Circuit would manage the properties and collect the rent.
The government launched the community led housing fund in December 2016 and Richmondshire District Council were allocated £493,000.
Ms Madden said the next stage in the process would be for her to conduct a feasibility study and for the parish council to seek the views of the population in Bainbridge and ascertain need for affordable housing.
She was working on a similar project with the Askrigg Foundation to make use of their three-story building in the market square, she told members.
Options for the Bainbridge chapel included creating two two-bedroom apartments, one two-bedroom apartment on the upper level with a community room on the ground floor, or a three-bedroom apartment incorporating parking space.
Councillor Yvonne Peacock said the big problem with the chapel was parking.
“Everybody complains about that in that area anyway as it’s so near the school and the minute you mention parking there will be complaints,” she said. However, she agreed there was a need for affordable housing in the parish and that a feasibility study and a survey to ascertain local need would be a good idea.
Resident Karen Prudden said parking in the village would always be a problem because when the houses were built there were very few cars.
“But we can’t let parking dictate the house building. If we don’t create affordable homes for people to rent they will leave the village and we won’t need any parking spaces because there will be no people” she said.
One resident asked if the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s car-park could be used at evenings and weekends, when staff were away and residents were at home.
“That option was discussed at the time the centre was built but nothing came of it,” said Mrs Prudden.
Ms Madden said she would design a survey that would go out to residents with a covering letter from the parish council within the next month.