Unholy row over community shop in church
A ROW has broken out over whether a church is an appropriate place for a village shop.
Since February Chalford Community Stores has been trading out of the Christ Church in London Road, Chalford, after volunteers were forced to relocate from their previous High Street location.
Last month the volunteers who run the shop admitted a planning application to Stroud District Council for a change of use allowing the shop to remain in the church on a temporary basis.
However, last week Chalford Parish Council planning committee deemed it as inappropriate for a functioning place of worship to be used as a shop.
This outraged several residents who have posted letters on the district council's website urging permission.
Amanda-Jane Strover, who lives in High Street, Chalford, and is also a member of the community store committee, said: "I'm shocked to learn the parish council has opposed this as a temporary measure for the shop, it shows a real lack of understanding of the community they serve."
Commenting on the SDC website, resident Margaret Reeks, said: "It is extraordinary that a community shop should not be deemed fit to be in a church when a shop's purpose is to serve the needs of a community and therefore fully in line with the ethos of the church."
High Street resident, Raymond Purdy, said: "The Government review of the Use Classes Order in 2011 stated in particular that they would give communities more power to safeguard local shops and services under threat."
The main argument from residents is that a number churches around the UK share their space with community shops and other community projects.
However, planning committee chairman, Janet Gaskell, argued: "There are a number of non-functional churches that are used as shops, but in this case there is no separation between the church and the shop.
"What happens if there is a funeral going on in the church during the shops opening hours? We have to think about all of Chalford's residents when making this decision."
At a meeting on Thursday, March 7, the parish council voted to give the village shop committee £200 to help towards costs of a new fridge and freezer.
Stroud District Council is yet to make any decision on the change of use of part of the church to a shop.