PLANS to convert Newbury’s old Methodist chapel into a community-orientated arts hub have been approved.
The application to renovate the Hampton Road building into an art gallery and workshop also includes accommodation on a first floor extension above the workshop.
The development will be carried out by City Arts Newbury, which says it wants to reclaim the building for a positive use that allows the public to have access and enjoy its character.
City Arts plans to set up a charitable trust and apply for grant funding before commencing with the work.
As well as operating as a hub for art-based activities, it is hoped it can also provide a meeting point for those interested in the “Old City” of Newbury and raise awareness and interest in it.
‘The City’ is a historic old part of the town and covers a small area along Argyle Road and Derby Road – to the West of St John’s roundabout – with several groups of historic almshouses, the oldest dating back to the 17th century.
During the renovation and use of the building, City Arts says it intends to involve the local community, schools, colleges and arts groups as much as possible.
It added that the hub would become a thriving part of the local street scene and will be a project which engenders a “true sense of community spirit and co-operation”.
As part of the renovation, the front of the chapel hall character will be fully retained, with the windows being refurbished and the brickwork maintained.
A public engagement event to present the proposed plans and views and collect feedback from the public was held at the building when the plans were first announced.
More than 150 people attended the event and City Arts Newbury described the reaction as “overwhelmingly positive”.
The chapel was built in the1850s in Hampton Road and in 1912 became listed as the City Mission Hall.
In 1989 the building was purchased by the Lighting Centre, Newbury, which added an internal mezzanine to the hall and used it as storage for their lighting cables and goods.
In November 2013, the building was purchased by 10 Hampton Rd Ltd with the intention of offering a long term lease on the property to City Arts Newbury.
Newbury-based architect CA Sustainable Architecture has been employed to help with the refurbishment.
The structure of the old chapel will be retained.
Approving the plans, West Berkshire Council said: “In terms of the impact on the character of the area and visual appearance of the proposal, is positive and is one supported by the conservation officer.
“The proposed development, which has previously been approved on the site, will enable the retention of an attractive addition to the Conservation Area and the alterations and extension proposed is a high-quality design which would relate well with the existing building form.”