Chapel conversion withdrawn following stinging rebuke

Prickwillow baptist chapel to become house

Prickwillow Baptist Chapel held its final services more than three years ago before it closed. Plans to convert it to a house have stalled. - Credit: ECDC Planning

Proposals put forward to convert a former Baptist chapel into a house “obliterates every feature of architectural interest in the interior”. 

And its “adherence to unimaginative domestic conventions entirely squanders the opportunity that the building’s spatial quality offers.  

“Even if the iconoclasm cannot be restrained in the interior, at least the most egregious external impacts should be amended”. 

The criticism was made by East Cambridgeshire District Council’s conservation officer Chris Patrick. 

He was commenting on a planning application to convert the former 19th century non-conformist chapel in Main Street, Prickwillow. 

The application was withdrawn days after the criticism came to light on the council’s planning portal.  

Mr Patrick said it “should be obvious that the present scheme is not a ‘well-considered proposal’”.  

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He said: “For example it is perverse, to say the least, to destroy two authentic original windows in the south elevation of the lean-to whilst recreating facsimiles in the modern post-war service extension (which does not need excessive illumination).  

“These windows should be retained and a pair of French doors in between should be more than adequate to provide a connection with the garden.” 

The chapel was founded in 1816 and rebuilt in 1875 and has a small 20th century addition to the rear.  

Mr Patrick says the conversion of closed places of worship raises particular sensitivities and there is well recognised guidance. 

The conservation officer also says the size, proportion and detail of window and door design, as well as materials, have a major impact on the overall appearance.  

“The interior is often most sensitive to change but is placed under the greatest pressure to accommodate it,” says Mr Patrick. 

“Changes to the interior should maintain, wherever possible, the emphasis on the rostrum end,” he says.  

These include “structural features such as galleries and stairs as well as decorative details such as cornices and ceiling roses.  

“There will be instances where proposals are not compatible with aspects of the building’s significance.  

“In these instances, the case for particular types of change needs to be made.  

“A proposal should set out the reasons for carrying out new work, options that were considered and how the preferred solution was arrived at.  

“This will provide justification for the works and by setting it out along with the building’s significance, it will present a ‘well-considered proposal.’”