East Yorkshire Methodist Church faces closure unless plans approved
A DRIFFIELD church could be forced to close if a major redevelopment is not approved, according to worshipers.
A planning application has been submitted to East Riding Council to demolish Driffield Methodist Church and erect a new chapel at the same spot.
Members of the church say the development would secure its future for more than a century.
Richard Mole, secretary of the Custodian Committee at the church, said spiralling maintenance costs are threatening to close the church.
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"The main intention is to build a chapel that better suits the purpose of the users," he said.
"Methodism is about community and bookings at the church have never been higher, so it is essential we provide a building that is suitable.
"The current maintenance costs are bringing the accounts down and are leading us closer to bankruptcy.
"If we don't make these changes then the costs would be such that we would not be able to afford to keep it open. We are not going to just walk away from Driffield. We still have a function to perform here but if we cannot redevelop the site then we would have to look elsewhere."
The plans include transforming the existing two-storey chapel into a single-storey building while retaining the school and playgroup areas.
An initial planning submission was withdrawn by the Custodian Committee after English Heritage aired their concerns.
Officers from English Heritage visited the site in Middle Street North and ruled the building was not of historical significance and therefore could not be classified as listed.
Although Driffield Town Council voted in favour of the proposals, Mayor Joan Cooper said she would be disappointed to see the chapel replaced.
"The future of the church is vitally important to the town but so is keeping this historic building instead of replacing it with a modern build," she said.
"It is part of the street scene of Driffield and I would be very reluctant to see that go as it would, quite literally, leave a big gap in the town.
"It is a beautiful building with a lot of history. This idea of replacing historic buildings with modern ones is something the Methodist church is doing a lot across the region and I think it's a real shame.
"The structural part of the church is sound but the interior needs updating, there is no question about that."
Mr Mole, who attends the church, said the new chapel will be as eco-friendly as possible.
"The changes will make the building inexpensive to run, which will benefit everyone," he said.
"We closed the upstairs worshipping area last year and have saved thousands of pounds on heating bills.
"The people who have the most commitment to the church, such as couples who have married here and the people who attend the church, are those I thought would have been the hardest to win over but they want this to happen because they understand the need for it."
A consultation period has begun with the council and a decision is expected in June.