Northampton church has been holding services without permission for more than a year

A church in Northampton that moved into a former storage unit has yet to gain permission to act as a place of worship.

Monday, 20th May 2019, 4:14 pm
Mount Olive Evangelical Ministry was denied permission to change the use of a warehouse unit in Kings Heath

Mount Olive Evangelical Ministry moved from the town centre to a warehouse unit in Kingsfield Way in Kings Heath in April 2018.

The charity that runs the church neglected to apply to the council for change of use initially, and when it did, the local authority refused permission in August last year.

Reasons given by the council were the loss of an industrial unit and the loss of parking spaces to worshippers' vehicles. The council also said that churches should be confined to the town centre wherever possible.

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But the church has now employed planning consultants Woods Hardwick in an attempt to get the refusal overturned

A planning document submitted by the firm says: "The council offers no explanation or justification why they consider a church to be a town centre location.

"Churches can be found as equally within villages as they can town centres."

Woods Hardwick said the church was unaware planning permission was required when the use of a building changed, until advised after they had signed a deal. The building has now been adapted internally for its new religious use and a 10-year deal has been signed with the landlord.

Six dedicated parking spaces have now been allocated to the church, which worshippers have been using for 13 months.

Woods Hardwick argued that town centre rents for the size of property needed were beyond the church's reach. It also said that the church had been using the unit for more than a year now with no complaints about worshippers' parking.

Concluding, the document alleges that the council misdirected itself in refusing the change of use application last year on the basis of the vitality of the town centre.

It says: "The specific requirement of the activity, the difficulty in finding suitable premises elsewhere, the marketing difficulties, and physical limitations of the existing building for economic use all justify the change of use to a church and place of worship."