Row over use of former Dartford nightclub as church
PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 November 2019
A church group which has unlawfully used a former nightclub for two years has hit out at council officers for advising elected members to refuse retrospective plans to legally convert it.
Redeemed Christian Church of God recently submitted a proposal to change the use of Dartford's former Talk of the Town, in Lowfield Street, into a place of worship and to provide help to vulnerable groups in the town.
A congregation of around 100 people use part of the first floor, but the applicant has applied for temporary planning permission to use the remainder of the first floor and provide extra parking.
Dartford Council's planning committee has been advised to reject the plans by its officers at its meeting on Thursday, November 7.
Planning officers have said the proposed church will have a "detrimental" impact on the next phases of the major town centre regeneration project, spearheaded by Bellway Homes.
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Representatives of the church said they feel "disappointed" that the planners have not recognised the "important" role it plays in the town.
Six letters of support have been sent to the local planning authority by church users, who have applauded the positive impacts from the building's reuse - which has provided winter shelters and food banks since 2017.
The applicant's agent, Paul Nicholls, associate director of Graham Simkin Planning, said: "Refusal of this application will delay this future redevelopment and frustrate the church's aspirations to continue using the building as a place of worship and providing their highly regarded community services."
However, Bellway Homes has said the application "conflicts" with Dartford Council's revitalisation plans for the town centre.
The housing developer says it will prohibit the next phases of its development in Lowfield Street - the creation of 280 homes and 92 flats - which is expected to be given the green light at the same planning meeting.
The pastor says he only wants temporary planning permission to continue and expand the service until July 2023 to cater to the forecast growth of the congregation to 150 people over the next five years.
A decision will be made by the planning committee at Dartford Civic Centre on Thursday, November 7.