A PROJECT to create a village community hall was surprisingly given the go-ahead after councillors overruled planning advice.
Ambitious plans to convert the long-disused former Clayton West Baptist Church into a theatre and community centre were unveiled by local dramatic society The Scissett Stage Door Theatre Company last June.
The chapel – built in 1840 – was abandoned by the church in the early 1980s and the group earmarked the grade 2 listed building on High Street as a new base and a centre for village shows and activities.
They planned a total overhaul of the site with an extension, new vehicle access and parking for 16 cars.
They also said the new facility could pave the way for a host of voluntary jobs.
But a report into the application by Kirklees Council planning officers recommended it should be turned down.
It said the plan would cause too much harm to the amenity of residential neighbours and too significant an impact on a listed building.
It also raised concerns about the size of the extension and the uncertainty of the unmarked graves on the grounds.
But councillors said they thought the benefits outweighed the impact and over-ruled the officials’ advice.
Speaking to the Heavy Woollen Planning Sub-Committee as a member of the public, Clr Elaine Ward, who is also chairman of the theatre group, said: “A number of people have said to me ‘when’s this going to be up and running? This isn’t for us it’s for the community’.
“We can see how derelict the site is, it certainly needs some TLC. The extension is not overdevelopment it’s only a replication.
“There are only four gravestones left and unfortunately we don’t know who’s buried there?
“The graves are in a very, very dangerous position and we get a lot of anti-social behaviour at the back of the chapel.
“We have nothing in the area to compensate this behaviour, Clayton West and Scissett and the surrounding villages have nothing at all.”
Richard Hobson, treasurer of The Scissett Stage Door Theatre Company, said: “Clayton West and Scissett are one of the few villages without a community hall.
“This will be used by local residents from the cradle to the grave.”
Clr Jim Dodds, who is not on the committee, also spoke up for the application.
He said: “This application has been a long time in coming. In a rural ward one of the main concerns from residents is the lack of amenities, which is certainly the case in Clayton West.
“The theatre company puts on lots of shows in the Denby Dale ward but it’s finding it increasingly difficult because of the cost of a suitable venue.
“I know they will work with the people who have objected to make sure those objections are overcome.”
Sub-committee member Clr Andrew Pinnock, said: “The graves are a rather sensitive issue, but I think a sufficient record of graveyards must be done.
“This is not something that should be taken lightly.”
Clr Adrian Murphy, said: “If this doesn’t go ahead the building will fall into disrepair and will become unfit for use. The community is screaming out for a place to have their meetings.”
Founded in 1929 as the Scissett Amateur Operatic Society, the amateur theatre group currently stages its performances at Scissett Middle School.
The society changed its name in the late 1990s but has remained true to its roots and still performs shows in the village of Scissett.
The group is now set to begin raising the six-figure fund needed to being the work.