RESIDENTS close to the former Gospel Hall in Barnoldswick are as divided over its future as councillors, heard a meeting of the West Craven Committee of Pendle Council this week.

Councillors, asked in June to consider releasing the owner of the semi-derelict hall from a restrictive covenant in order for the site in Hollins Road to be used for housing, were divided and decided to ask what nearby residents thought.

Pendle Council had applied to the courts for a section 79 notice requiring the building - which was originally an RAF hut and has been empty for several years - to be brought back from its current dilapidated condition. In response, the court asked the council and the owner to work together to try and find a solution to the use of the site.

But, after getting the views of residents, the council is set to go back to the court and to proceed with the notice requiring the building, which is next to Valley Gardens, to be brought back to a fit state.

At Tuesday's meeting in Earby, committee chair, Cllr David Whipp said residents who responded to a questionnaire put out by the council were more or less equally divided over what should be done with the site.

Residents were asked four questions - have they experienced any problems while the building has been unoccupied; would they like to see the site developed; what sort of development would they like to see on the land; and whether there was anything they would like to say about the future of the building and the site.

Most had not experienced any issues with the building while it had been empty, four wanted to see it redeveloped, and five did not. Views were varied on its potential redevelopment for housing with three in favour and two saying there should be nothing at all. Two thought it should be for community use, and there were comments about it being grassed over or used as a play area.

It was generally accepted that the building should go, and if there was to be new housing, it should be single-storey.

Cllr Tom Whipp said the general consensus seemed to be that the site be used for the communal good.

The covenant restricts the use of the building to religious uses. It was the home of the Gospel Mission for more than 50 years. The church moved out in 2005 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.