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MOUNT ST MARY’S: Church renovation gets green light to become flats

MOUNT ST MARY’S: Church renovation gets green light to become flats

Image: Google Maps

Planning chiefs in Leeds have given the go-ahead to plans to convert a 19th century east Leeds church, which has stood empty for more than 30 years, into new flats.

The scheme for Mount St Mary’s Church in Richmond Hill will see 175 flats built over two buildings – which developers Estate Aid and MSM had insisted will be sympathetic to the existing church building, which dates back to the mid-19th century.

Members of Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel voted unanimously in favour of the plans, with one councillor calling the scheme “potentially great”.

A report by council officers said the scheme proposes to extend the church and add a “modern, contemporary extension”.

It added a “feature window” would be provided in the west gable to create a
“lantern effect” at night. Of the flats, 83 would have one bedroom; 82 with two bedrooms and 10 with three-bedrooms.

But not everyone was pleased with the plans.

Objector Julia McHale, who lives in nearby Richmond Hill Close, told the meeting: “They will be taking so much of my life away by building a five storey block of flats outside my back door. Not to mention the privacy, air quality or right to light.

“It doesn’t feel like there is a balance at al – the Church is a great idea for housing, but we have flats being built all around Richmond Hill.

“It doesn’t seem like it will be a neighbourhood anymore, it is just going to be flats. Families don’t want flats, they want houses, they want green spaces and this virus has shown us we have to look after ourselves, get fresh air and enjoy life.

“It’s going to devastate my life and that of older people as well.”

Speaking on behalf of the developers, Mark Henderson said: “Mount St Mary’s is a complex site to develop and, should our proposals get planning permission, it will provide an opportunity to maintain important elements of the existing building and bring them back into use.

“This is an area of Leeds that needs investment. Without your planning support, there is a real chance of this development not happening at all, and this may lead to further delays, putting the church at risk.”

The church, built in 1858, has stood empty for more than 30 years, having closed in 1989.

Commenting on the plans, Coun Trish Smith said: “If we can look at helping the existing residents, then I don’t see a problem with this. I think it looks like a very good scheme.”

“I think the new build extension is very attractive,” added Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab). “I think the situation would be improved if the building were cleaned.

“It’s a dirty, grey colour at the moment – if it was a lighter stone colour, it would not only improve the view of the church, but would make the extension less dominant.”

The developers had said the site was “not viable” in terms of contributions towards affordable housing, due to the costs of bringing the site back into use.

Coun Kevin Ritchie (Lab) said: “It’s always disappointing when an application comes that doesn’t meet any of our planning gain requirements, but I accept the viability statement that is here before us.

“I am sympathetic to Mrs McHale and her neighbours are having, but I don’t see how a smaller building, or houses, would be viable.”

Coun David Jenkins (Lab) said: “I think it is a potentially great idea. If we can say that we encourage English Heritage and the Catholic Church to put some money into this, it would be a great idea for the city and for the East End of Leeds.”

The committee voted unanimously in favour of the plans.

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter


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