PEOPLE living close to the former home of the Gospel Mission in Barnoldswick are being asked for their views about plans for its possible replacement with housing.

Originally an RAF hut, the semi-derelict building in Hollins Road, next to Valley Gardens, which is subject to a covenant restricting its use to a religious building, was the home of the church for more than 50 years.

The church moved out in 2005 after more than 50 years because of the condition of the building and for eight years held services in Barnoldswick Civic Hall before relocating to its new site in Wellhouse Road in 2013.

The site was conveyed to the trustees of the church by the old Barnoldswick Urban District Council in 1957. The conveyance contained a covenant limiting the use of land, and its buildings, to a church or gospel mission - and prohibiting any other use.

In 2016, there were failed plans to turn the building into a mosque.

A report to the West Craven Committee of Pendle Council, which now holds the covenant, says that the property has recently changed hands a number of times.

The report states: "There was a request in 2019 to remove the covenant, which was declined by the committee. Since then, a notice pursuant to Section 79 of the Building Act has been served to bring the building back from a dilapidated condition. The court has sought for the council and the owner to work together and try and find a solution to the use of the site."

The current owner of the site has asked for the covenant to be lifted on grounds that the building has been empty for 15 years, that no religious groups want to use it, and because it is not 'financially feasible or sustainable to use the site with the restrictive covenant.

"The evidence we have before us is that the site has not been sought for, or is likely to be used in future for a church or gospel hall. Any challenge to a refusal would need to be justified and defendable. It is highly unlikely that a case could be put to any tribunal that the land is still needed for use as a church or gospel hall. In that circumstance, were the council not able to show justified reasoning, the likelihood would be that the covenant would be lifted, " continued the report.

The West Craven Committee is therefore being asked to agree to the lifting of the covenant and that the site, subject to planning permission being granted, could have a 'beneficial use through development for appropriate housing'.

Also that the council needs to receive an 'appropriate of level of capital receipt for the value of the site' once the covenant had been lifted.

At the recent meeting of the committee in Salterforth, members heard that the then council sold the building to the Gospel Mission for £2 on the basis that a covenant was in place to retain its use as a church or gospel mission.

Cllr Mick Strickland said his concern was that the building be set fire to and that all that would be left would be a 'pile of ashes'. He also believed there was asbestos on the site and added having the place tidied up would be of benefit to Valley Gardens.

Committee chair, Cllr David Whipp suggested that they ask the residents of Hollins Road for their opinion and see what they think.

"They are the ones most closely connected to the building," he said.