Opposition to the removal of pews and an organ at a Listed church in Farnley has been registered.
As revealed by The Dispatch last month, a planning application has been submitted to remove rows of pews and the organ from historic Farnley Hill Methodist Church and Sunday School.
The neglected Grade II Listed building, on Stonebridge Lane, dates back to 1828 and has been disused since the late 1990s.
Leeds Civic Trust director Dr Kevin Grady has registered an objection on behalf of the civic watchdog. He said:
“This Listed church has a complete interior with box pews, which is an extremely rare survival in a Methodist church or chapel.
“No specific use has been proposed, the removal of the pews and organ would be done purely on spec. Therefore the application gets nowhere near justifying removal.
“The application states that the removal of the box pews and organ
‘will not have an impact on the historical architectural value of the building as a whole’.
“This claim is contradicted by the detailed List Description of the building, which includes the interior with box pews and organ, and many other details…
“…We would go further, to say that we believe that, even if some actual use is found in future, it is highly unlikely that any use would reasonably justify the removal of these important elements.”
Matt Bentley, a senior conservation officer at Leeds council, has also expressed concern. He says in a letter:
“The principal concern is that the proposals do not justify the harm caused to the building through a reuse, and do not propose a new development of the property.
“With no proposed reuse the loss of this amount of historic fabric is not justified and cannot be accepted. There are also no proposals for
the upgrade of the rest of the building.”
In a statement accompanying his planning application, Farshad Mahmood, of Fawcett Lane, says:
“We have had several potential tenants viewing the property to lease the church, who were interested in letting the premises for the use of yoga, dance classes … and for kids’ parties etc.
“However, due to the existence of the pews we are unable to move forward with leasing the premises and the church, as a result, continues to be neglected.”
Middleton-based organ specialist JM Spink says the organ has little value due to problems with ‘damp, woodworm and a significant period of misuse’. He says the organ is by Brookes of Glasgow and dates back to the early 1890s.
More information about the plans can be found at Leeds City Council’s planning portal. The period where the public can comment on the proposals ended on Friday.