Bid to redevelop 'iconic' church in Chadwell Heath gets green light
- Credit: Ken Mears
A plan to redevelop an "iconic" church has been given the green light by the town hall.
The scheme keeps the façade of locally listed Chadwell Heath Baptist Church but demolishes the building behind it.
Plans include a new place of worship, 11 one-bedroom, six two-bedroom homes and community space.
A planning committee meeting on Tuesday, April 26 heard Be First had worked closely with the applicant, Rev James Thomas, to ensure the church's historic character remains.
There are conditions in place to ensure the town hall's regeneration arm has extra scrutiny of the scheme.
Cllr Glenda Paddle welcomed the plan on behalf of the three Whalebone ward councillors.
She said: "The baptist church has a long history of providing vital services to vulnerable residents.
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"For the most part we have found agreement this development will be to the benefit of the community."
She added if issues arise the ward's representatives will work to resolve them.
The development would be car free with drivers subject to existing parking rules.
Concerns about loss of privacy were raised by members of the public, but the meeting heard these would not be "detrimental".
But Karan Sanghera, who lives in Eric Road, criticised the scheme saying neighbours felt "anxious" about not being consulted.
Cllr Dominic Twomey said that was disappointing to hear, adding: "Residents and objectors will see it's not been an easy ride for the applicant."
The revised application has seen a block at the back of the plot drop one storey and the number of homes reduced rom 21 to 17.
The plan was "sympathetically" put together and "massively" increases the area available for the community, the committee heard.
However, Ms Sanghera said there were "serious" concerns about whether the legal duty to consult had been met.
More than 500 letters were sent out, with 11 responses, six of which were sent by people from the council or church, she added.
Thirty people attended an online consultation, the meeting also heard.
Cllr Muhammad Saleem, who chairs the planning committee, said the responses showed people had been contacted.
Rev Thomas argued the church's community work would be threatened if the development did not proceed.
"Without some form of development this iconic landmark will disappear. I'm not trying to hold a gun to people's heads.
"If there was another way to do this, this would not have been my first course of action.
"If we can't develop our church in this way, we will have no other option than to move from this site.
"We can't afford to repair the things that need fixing," Rev Thomas said.
He explained how the place of worship needs £500,000 worth of repairs.
Cllr Cameron Geddes reminded committee members its task was to work out if the application complies with planning rules.
The meeting heard the development's community space includes kitchen and shower areas which would benefit the church's future work with the homeless.
Approving the revised scheme would mean the church could expand its community work, councillors were told.
A second objector asked why the plot could not be used to create a park or play area.
But Rev Thomas explained that, while it was considered, the option did not work financially with the church also not in a position to manage such a space.
An independent review of the applicant's viability study concluded the scheme would lose £104,805 with no affordable housing.
A 40 per cent level of affordable housing would see a loss of £588,159.
Be First believes the scheme cannot include any affordable housing on site in the current housing market.
However, a review mechanism would be triggered if there is potential for an uplift in affordable housing.
A further condition stipulates half the homes remain unoccupied until the church is built.
Cllr Twomey said the community benefits needed to be weighed against those for social housing.
"The very best has been done by the applicant to refine the build and try to accommodate everyone, which is incredibly difficult.
"This is a very good development with the changes that have been made. To stop the church doing the fantastic work it has been doing would not be a good thing," he added.
The application was approved unanimously subject to conditions.