D-day on plans to redevelop “landmark” north-east church

Don Marr of the local heritage society outside Johnshaven Church

Councillors will next week decide whether to back redeveloping an Aberdeenshire coastal village’s only church into homes.

Aberdeenshire Council planners are calling for local members to reject proposals to turn the Mearns Coastal Church, on Johnshaven’s Castle Street, into four flats.

Though the local authority says it is “supportive” of plans to retain the building, its roads development team has objected on the grounds of a lack of parking spaces on the streets around it.

The church, opened in 1860, was closed last summer and put on the market by the Church of Scotland.

The application for full planning permission for the development is being referred to the council’s Kincardine and Mearns area committee at the request of councillors George Carr, Jean Dick and Bill Howatson.

The proposals are for two three bedroom flats, one two-bedroom one and another one bedroom one.

Eleven letters of objection and seven in support have been received regarding the application.

Benholm and Johnshaven Heritage Society chairman, Don Marr, said: “It is the parking that is the problem. Johnshaven was only built for horses. There is not enough space.

“The church is no longer being used as a place of worship. It has got to do something. It is a landmark in the village. Housing would be best, it is just the way is is situated. It is on a tight corner.

“The building is an important part of the village’s heritage. It would make a good home, the problem is the parking.”

A council report on the plans said: “The proposed development would ensure the retention of this important building and its continued contribution to the character of conservation area.

“Although the planning service is fully supportive of the re-use of the building including residential, the perceived lack of parking spaces has resulted in an objection from infrastructure services (roads development) which to date, remains unresolved and the application is therefore recommended for refusal.”

Within agent Kerry Smith Architects’ design statement for the proposals, they are described as a “sustainable use for the building”.