‘Overbearing’ development would remove our privacy says Cross Street pastor

A plan to renovate vacant buildings in the town centre have been criticised by a local pastor.
Cross Street Pentecostal Church’s Andrew Calvert has said the scheme to develop buildings on Mill Street and Cross Street would be “overbearing and out of scale on such a small street” the access would be “extremely dangerous” and the second storey would create privacy issues for churchgoers.
The church is situated directly opposite the proposed development, which would comprise 10 independent living retirement apartments and commercial units.
Mr Calvert said he objected to the addition of an extra storey to the former Electric Picture Theatre as it would mean a loss of sunlight for the church.
He said the church has a large stained-glass window “which looks beautiful when the sun shines through it but sunlight would be blocked by this development”.
He added that other parts of the church complex would also be affected by loss of sunlight because the majority of the frontage of the church complex was less than 5m from the proposed development.
He said the church entrance lounge was not as high as the church and an additional storey would cause overshadowing.
He said residents in the proposed property would be able to overlook the church premises, meaning a loss of privacy. He said: “The church premises are used for private prayer, a baby and toddler group where mothers sometimes breast feed their babies and an exercise group. These are all activities which require some degree of privacy and participants would not want to be overlooked from a high window or balcony.”
Mr Calvert also cited the conservation issue surrounding the Electric Picture Theatre, which was Congleton's first cinema in 1910 and a building of local historic interest in the West Street conservation area.
He said: “More consideration should be given to retaining original features of the Electric Picture Theatre in such a way that it is still recognisable as a historic building.”
Writing on Cheshire East Council’s planning portal, he continued: “The addition of an extra storey would cause over development and overcrowding of the site which would be out of character for the area and have an adverse visual impact. It would be overbearing and out of scale in such a small street.
“I object to the Juliet balconies on the first floor. If they were overlooking an area of countryside they would be appropriate but they will be overlooking activities in the church as outlined and result in loss of privacy.
“If the upper storey was not added to the former Electric Picture Theatre this would mean that two less parking spaces would be required. This would enable a small amount of green space to be preserved maybe as a small allotment/ herb garden for the residents.
“The location of the vehicular access is directly opposite the main entrance to the church. Cross Street is a two-way street which is wide enough for vehicles to pass at either end but the section in front of the church is only wide enough for single file traffic and for this section priority is given to vehicles travelling from Antrobus Street to Mill Street (eastbound). Most of the street has a kerbed footpath on one side of the road only, the side of the proposed development. The part of the street in front of the church's main entrance has a kerbed footpath on both sides of the street. At this point the street is extremely narrow, the narrowest part of a narrow street, a mere 2.57m. Placing the access to the proposed development here is extremely dangerous. In the design and access statement section nine the plan shows that vehicles will have to touch the church wall and the pavement kerb in order to be able to swing round sufficiently to get into the entrance. The size of vehicle referred to on this plan is a ‘medium-sized car’ so this plan clearly shows that for a large car coming from Mill Street to gain access to the proposed development it would be required to mount the kerb and if approaching from Antrobus Street access would not be possible. Even with a medium-sized car the manoeuvres required by any retired people living in these retirement apartments will require an advanced driving qualification if they are to be able to access the proposed development without either damage to property or endangering pedestrians.”
He added: “The Pentecostal Church is a thriving church with activities taking place every day of the week, including activities for young children and the elderly. The vehicular access point to the proposed development is directly opposite the church entrance, the same location where children enter and leave the church, where taxis pull up to drop off and collect elderly and disabled people and where the hearse pulls up when we have a funeral. It is the worst possible location in the entire street to have a vehicular access.”
He concluded: “One final request: would it be possible to have something on the deeds that stipulates that the independent living retirement apartments can only be inhabited by retired people?”
A resident of Biddulph Road, Congleton, echoed Mr Calvert’s comments, saying: “I think there is a major problem with the entrance. This is the narrowest part of the road, single file traffic with a very narrow pedestrian pavement on one side, close to an almost right angle blind bend. It would be very difficult for a vehicle to turn safely at that point in the road, and the probability of a serious accident resulting in crush injuries or worse would be increased if the proposed entrance as outlined in the planning application were to be passed.”
A worshipper at Cross Street Church said the proposal appeared to have the potential to be an improvement but added: “The Juliet balconies on the first storey would overlook a meeting room of the church (privacy issue). The extra storey would block out light from the church and the position of the new entrance directly opposite to the church entrance on a very narrow part of this narrow street (is an) extreme safety issue.”
People have until 25th June to comment on the plans. Search for reference number 20/1934C on the council’s online planning portal. The council’s target decision date is 10th August.