Autumn decision for hall’s future

Garstang St Thomas parish hall September 2012
Garstang St Thomas parish hall September 2012

PARISHIONERS at Garstang’s St Thomas’s church will find out soon if planning officials are supporting their bid for the old parish hall to be converted into homes.

The conversion project is vital if the church is to raise the cash needed to continue work on the partially built new hall behind the nearby vicarage – the cash would be raised by selling the old hall, with planning permission, to developers.

Church officials have told the Courier been told by Wyre Council that the plans will be considered at the borough planning committee meeting on November 7.

The agenda for the meeting is likely to be made public by the end of October, along with the recommendation of senior planning officials to either approve or reject the plans.

Church members have already learned, via a Courier exclusive, that the project faces tough opposition.

Opponents include highways bosses and the owners of the Tithebarn pub.

Officals at Lancashire County Council are seriously worried about the road safety impact of the plan, which would see the entrance/exit link to the homes using the current garden area between the church and a neighbouring home.

Earlier this summer, when questioned about the highway objections St Thomas’s planning agent, Mr Peter Gilkes said: “These are technical matters and can be resolved.”

There has also been opposition from Mitchells Brewery, owners of the Old Tithebarn, neighbouring pub.

They fear the pub could close if the area between the pub and the hall, currently used for pub customer parking, is taken away from them as part of the hall conversion project.

Parishioners know they face an uphill struggle to raise £500,000, possibly more, to raise the money needed to complete the partially completed new parish/community hall which has been in “mothballs” for about 18 months.

In March 2011 church warden Doug Willoughby denied work had come to a halt on the new building, but said there had been a “hiatus” and that work would be starting again “soon.”

Should planning permission be given the church will sell the site to developers for the highest price.

The Courier will report the planning department’s recommendation as soon as it is known.