A TOWN centre church is to be converted into apartments despite concerns from an historical society over the negative impact on the listed building.
Cannon Street Baptist Church in Accrington has been disused for more than 18 months.
The Grade II listed building dates back to 1874 and is opposite the derelict Conservative Club.
Bury-based Y and Y Developments has proposed to convert the church to improve its current “dilapidated” state. The plans will include a number of roof lights.
However, the Victorian Society said that the proposals would fundamentally harm the special character of the church and added: “There would be near-complete loss of the interior and serious damage to the external appearance of the building.”
At a meeting of Hyndburn’s Council’s Planning Committee, Councillor Lynn Wilson said that it was only a matter of time before someone broke in and set the building on fire.
She said: “Apologies to the Victorian Society if it offends them. But this development will help bring back respect to a beautiful building.”
Planning consultant Tom Flannagan spoke on behalf of the developers at the meeting and said he believed the 16 apartments had the potential to have a catalyst effect on the rest of the area.
He said: “The church is in a poor state of repair. The application will safeguard the building in the long term.
“Not only will it bring significant regeneration for the church itself but it will benefit the local people and visitors. It will have wide-ranging benefits for the town.”
Councillor Janet Storey said she would prefer the building be transformed rather than knocked down.
Councillor Bernard Dawson said that although the council was keen on conservation in the town centre, he felt conversion was the best option available.
He added: “As long as this is done sensitively then I agree with it.”
A report into the proposals stated that the church has already suffered from significant internal damage.
The committee voted unanimously to grant planning permission for the scheme.