After years of standing empty, the former Wesleyan chapel on Coltsgate Hill in Ripon might once again become an active part of the community.
Plans will shortly be put forward to Harrogate planners to convert the ground floor into offices and to create a performing arts centre on the first floor.
Eura Audit UK chairman Barrie Price, who is also chairman of the Knoll Charitable Trust – the owners of the chapel – said: “Eura Audit UK, Accountants and Business Advisors were looking for a new home for their administration department due to expansion.
“The old chapel on Coltsgate Hill, which had lain empty for many years, seemed the ideal base for this purpose and was seen as a unique opportunity to end the building’s decades of disuse.”
Brought back from the brink of dereliction in the 1990s, theformer Wesleyan chapel was built in 1861 to replace an earlier building in which John Wesley himself preached in 1780.
The current plans rely on filling in the central atrium to both increase the useable floor area on the first floor and improve the energy efficiency of the office space below.
However, this element of the scheme is not currently being supported by the Harrogate Planning Service and they have refused listed building consent for the required work.
Mr Price said: “Although the charity has been successful in maintaining the property’s structural and internal integrity, there is little doubt that as time passed, it was becoming more and more problematic to keep the building wind and water tight and it was feared that if a use could not be found, then this grand old lady would once again fall into disrepair.
“We have engaged the services of a heritage consultant to ensure that the historic aspect of the building is preserved but at the same time allow a modern office space to be created on the ground floor’’.
“There were problems to overcome due to the nature of the interior and the open atrium aspect and it was essential to address the issue of this open space in order to be able to heat the building effectively. Without enclosing the atrium, the cost of heating would have been prohibitive and in addition both the Knoll Charitable Trust and Eura Audit UK are keen to reduce their own carbon footprints as much as possible.’’
After deliberating, the trust felt the only way the chapel could be brought back into effective use would be to enclose the central atrium by means of erecting a temporary ceiling. Although this would allow the ground floor of the chapel to be used, it did mean that use of the upper floor would be very limited.
But following consultation with Ripon City Council and many local performing arts societies, including the St Cecilia Orchestra and the Cathedral Concert Society, the trust felt that if the ceiling could be made load-bearing then the upper floor could also be brought into effective use. The space would provide centrally located, low-cost facilities which could be adapted for any particular use and with its exceptional acoustic qualities, would provide “an excellent rehearsal venue”.
Negotiations are now under way with Harrogate council planners to find the best way to bring the building back to life. Organisations interested in using the chapel should phone the trust on 01765 690890.