A CHURCH which became marooned on a busy roundabout and lost its congregation has finally found a new lease of life.
St John’s Church in Morriston, Swansea, will become a cafe, gallery and commercial unit on the ground and mezzanine floors, with three loft apartment-style flats above.
The church was once a focal point for the newly-laid grid of streets which housed copper and metal workers from the late 18th century onwards.
But its use began to decline and it has been empty for a couple of decades.
Owner Andrew Shipley bought the grade two-listed building – on the intersection of Woodfield Street and Morfydd Street – 15 years ago. Initially he wanted to turn it into six flats.
He then submitted a planning application to Swansea Council for the current scheme, but it has taken more than 10 years of discussions and tweaks to gain planning consent.
“I’m very pleased about it,” said Mr Shipley. “The council are very much behind it.
“The listed building chap from Cadw (Welsh heritage body) has been there, and they want to see the building used again.
“It’s still the early stages, but we want to crack on with it.”
Mr Shipley said work could be completed by the early autumn, subject to listed planning consent from Cadw.
Little external work is required although new windows and doors on the west side of the building will be installed, leading to a small outdoor terrace.
But the inside will change significantly.
Mr Shipley envisaged an independent cafe and gallery, with an adjacent business centre alongside providing desk space, a meeting room, and computers and printers.
Two of the flats on the upper floors will have two bedrooms, the other will have one bedroom.
“They would suit young, urban professional types,” said Mr Shipley, of Swansea.
Council planning officers said the scheme was a “sensitive conversion” which brings a “prominent, decaying grade two-listed building back into beneficial use”.
Their planning report said a new road safety scheme nearby, providing a new crossing and a pavement along the western edge of the church, was due to be completed this financial year.
The scheme led to several objections, including about parking issues in the vicinity. One of the planning conditions is that occupiers of the three flats cannot obtain a resident’s parking permit for any controlled parking zone in the area.
Concerns were also raised about air quality, but planning officers said the church was not in a designated air quality management area and that there would not be “material health impacts” on future occupiers.
Four years ago an Iceland lorry collided with the church in the early hours after the driver became ill at the wheel.
Mr Shipley said: “Some people think it’s silly place, but you can’t go round a roundabout at over 20mph.
“I live on a main road and people sometimes travel up there at 50mph.”