Plans to secure future of Hawes chapel welcomed

Bethel Chape, Hawes.

Proposals to secure the future of a crumbling chapel in Hawes have been welcomed.

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will consider plans to transform part of the imposing 3,900sq ft former Bethel Chapel, a United Reform Church, which has stood at the eastern entrance to Hawes since 1852, just a year after St Margaret’s Church opened in the Wensleydale town.

The building’s owner, John Bates, has revealed plans to create bunkhouse accommodation for walkers and cyclists and a tea room for visitors to an arts and crafts gallery that was established in the building in 1984, after the church closed due to a decline in the congregation.

Alongside alterations to the building, which is an undesignated heritage asset of local importance, Mr Bates’ ambition includes essential maintenance on the chapel, with repairs planned for its roof and windows, as until he bought the property last July, it had been unused other than for storage for several years and little maintenance had been undertaken.

Documents submitted to planners warn the restoration work is vital “to halt further deterioration of the fabric”.

Hawes councillor Jill McMullon said she was “completely supportive” of the proposals.

She added: “This is a significant building that has stood empty and, like many old chapels on high streets, has been decaying for some time, so the fact that there are new plans for it must be welcomed.”

The proposal also includes two small new buildings outside the chapel for families to store prams and buggies while visiting the gallery and for external storage.

The application states: “The works proposed seek to make the property a more suitable and safer place to live, and to provide business uses which will help to secure the future of the building.

“With the exception of the new external store buildings, the works have been designed to fit within the existing building.The new ext ernal structures have been designed to have scale and materials which will not detract from the building. In conclusion, it is felt that the proposals have little effect on the cultural heritage of the building or its surroundings.”

The plans include the creation of a kitchen and two six-bed rooms for “affordable but comfortable shared accommodation”.

With the building on the popular Tour de France Grand Depart route, traders in the town are hopeful the scheme could boost the tourist economy.

The documents states: “It will be developed and managed in such a way that allows flexibility of use to cater for individuals, groups or families. Whilst the overall intention is for accommodation to be pre-booked this shouldn’t rule out walk-in bookings for example walkers or cyclists wanting to break up long journeys and shelter from bad weather.

“We see the bunkhouse as complementing other businesses in Hawes such as the cycle shop and hire across the road and other shops, pubs and restaurants within the town.”

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