An island Free Church whose population rocketed after a schism in the Church of Scotland congregation is set to get planning permission for a new place of worship.
Some 16 objections have been lodged against the construction of the new church in Stornoway – with some making points about Sunday trading and the number of churches in the town.
But planning officials recommend giving outline planning permission to Stornoway High Free Church’s plans for a new-build church neighbouring residential homes on Smith Avenue.
The congregation has been without a permanent home since splitting with the Church of Scotland two years ago.
The bulk of worshippers in Stornoway High Church left the denomination over its decision to allow gay ministers and the departure from Biblical teaching. They later joined the Free Church of Scotland.
The plot on part of a forestry plantation, planted about 30 years ago, opposite the athletics track and car park on Smith Avenue is owned by the Stornoway Trust.
A canal – constructed by former Lewis owner, Lord Leverhulme, so herring boats could avoid the long voyage around Point and sail from Broadbay into Stornoway – runs nearby, raising objectors’ concerns over rats and flooding.
A planning report points out other buildings of a similar scale – like the Bethesda Care Home and Stornoway Health Centre, as are Western Isles Council’s headquarters and a secondary school – are nearby so the church would not change the character of the area.
There are alternative buildings and sites available for the development, say objectors.
Noise and excessive traffic as well as the loss of privacy have also been raised.
Road safety concerns over parking and overdevelopment on the street are other issues put to the council.
The removal of trees and impact on wildlife are material planning considerations and some replanting will be required say planners.
Some representations stress “there are enough churches in Stornoway.”
Others highlight having Sunday opening “where nearby sports facilities are not open”.
One objector commented: “The church would be built adjacent to the only shop open on a Sunday and would reduce progression away from the outdated Sunday laws.”
Planners say impacts on neighbouring houses have been properly considered and “do not carry sufficient weight to dictate that the application be refused.”
They recommend a number of restrictions and planning conditions.
If in-principle permission is granted by the council, a full planning application will required at a later date.