PLANS to transform part of a former town church site to use as a base for Aberystwyth Town Council have been given the go-ahead by planners.
The council agreed late last year to spend £240,000 on the restoration of the presbytery of the former St Winefride’s Church building, which it bought two years ago for £360,000.
This week, the first set of plans for the renovation, which will include forming new offices, installing PV offices, PV panels and changing windows to double glazed sash windows, were approved by Ceredigion County Council officers under delegated powers.
St Winefride’s Church and presbytery have stood on Queens Road since 1875, welcoming worshippers until it closed in 2012.
It remained untouched and under threat of demolition until Aberystwyth Town Council bought it with the aim of restoring and adapting the site to create a “fully accessible cultural and community centre, providing event space, flexible multi-purpose facilities for local groups, a civic space for town events, offices for the council and a functional outdoor space.”
The council renamed the building Neuadd Gwenfrewi.
The first phase of the project to reinvent the building was to work on the presbytery to use as the council’s offices.
At a meeting before Christmas, town councillors signed off on an estimated £240,000 to restore the presbytery, a price the council “felt to be very reasonable due to the building’s condition.”
The council held a community consultation on what to do with the site in 2022, as plans for its complete restoration – which could cost more than £1m – begin to take shape.
Originally marketed in August 2020 at offers around £250,000 by the diocese, which closed it in favour of revamping a church in Penparcau in a controversial move which caused a longstanding battle between parishioners, the town council ended up paying £360,000 for the building due to the “buoyant market” at the time, using cash reserves it had built up “over a number of years”.
The building is the first to be owned by Aberystwyth Town Council since 1974.
The council said at the time that, with more services being taken on by community councils due to “long-term financial pressures at the county level”, the town council also needs accommodation as it pays “significant rent” for its premises on Baker Street “which are problematic in terms of access and which do not encourage public participation”.
A planning officer’s report said: “The proposal will provide and create employment opportunity at the building especially as the building is currently vacant and will create a new viable and sustainable use for the building.
“It is considered that the alterations which involve installing double glazed fenestration and solar panels on the southern roof of the building will not have a negative effect on the character of the building or on the conservation area.”