A disused chapel which once echoed to the sound of hymns and prayers is set to resound with the clatter of cups and cutlery after plans to turn it into a cafe were given the green light.
The former Methodist chapel in Corbridge Market Place dates from 1867, but is redundant as a place of worship and requires a new lease of life to prevent it from falling into disrepair.
Now county councillors have approved an application to convert the Grade II-listed building into a coffee shop, and provide another refreshment stop for the many tourists who visit the scenic Tyne Valley village every year.
The scheme involves retaining six of the chapel’s wooden pews as customer seating, the use the pulpit as a seating booth, the partial lowering of the floor of the nave and internal changes to provide toilets.
The stone and slate chapel, with its distinctive cast iron railings along its front, is part of the Corbridge conservation area, and the change of use was opposed by the parish council and one local cafe owner.
Parish councillors claimed its listed status means it is unsuitable for business use.
However, members of the county council’s west area planning committee accepted an officer recommendation that the conversion scheme should be allowed. Last night committee member, Coun Richard Dodd, said: “This building has stood unused for a long time, and sometimes old chapels and churches lend themselves to these sorts of new uses when they are no longer full of worshippers.
“If someone is prepared to invest a significant sum of money in this venture then I’m in favour of it. Another cafe is more of what Corbridge does well, which is to cater for tourists.”
Coun Ian Hutchinson, who chaired the committee, said: “Retaining the pews and pulpit will certainly add to the charm of a cafe there, and I think it’s the right thing in the right place.”
Planning officer Melanie Francis said the scheme will ensure that a prominent and important listed building will be used and maintained.