New hopes raised for Methodist chapels’ low-cost housing plans

Under the hammer: Bainbridge Methodist Chapel built in 1836.

By Betsy Everett

Richmondshire District Council is looking to revive proposals for three Methodist chapels in the Dales to be converted to affordable housing.

The redundant buildings at Bainbridge, Aysgarth and Middleham are due to be sold following a decision of the local Methodist circuit, whose efforts were undermined by its own headquarters’ property staff refusing to agree to the development.

Now, the district council says its rural housing officer will look to another community housing group to pursue the projects.

A spokesman also confirmed that it would not reclaim the £150,000 grant made to Bainbridge Chapel under the community-led housing scheme but would “continue to work on the projects to deliver affordable housing to meet the needs of the community.”

If Bainbridge could not, in the end, use the money, it would be used for another, similar project.

An initial feasibility grant of £25,000 covering surveys, drawings and planning permission, would also not be reclaimed.

Opposition to the plans had come from the church’s own headquarters property division, who feared the “affordability” and local occupancy clauses demanded by the national park authority would devalue the buildings.

They refused to sign off the flagship Bainbridge project, despite having given thousands of pounds towards the conversion which was supposed to set a nationwide standard for similar disused places of worship.