Full approval has been granted for a planning application to convert Rays Hall, Dereham Road, Reepham, to a house and restore the front to its original appearance.
The building was the first Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Reepham, built in 1842. From 1935 to 1967 it was used as a fire station. This required enlarging the entrance, which was subsequently bricked in to take smaller doors when it became a youth hall.
The applicant is David Huggins of Leigh on Sea, Essex, whose agent, Mark Ashurst of A Squared Architects, Norwich, explained that the proposal submitted in December 2013 is for a change of use of from a hall to a dwelling, including alterations to the roof and front elevation.
Currently vacant, the building would become a three-bedroomed residence. This would include part demolition to facilitate the conversion, provide amenity space and restoration of the façade, and proposes using brick, stone and tiles to match. There is no parking, however, and the only provision to be added is one bicycle space.
The building became a youth hall in 1971 for the Reepham Associated Youth Service (RAYS) and the local Scouts and Guides. However, by July 2010 the Scouts had moved to a purpose-built headquarters on Smugglers Lane, and since then, the building has been vacant and unused; the Rayzone youth club now holds activities in the Methodist Chapel and St Michael’s, as well as the local schools.
The hall sits on a small plot on the southeast corner of the grounds of Eynsford House. There is a narrow passageway between the hall and a house to the eastern elevation. To the south is a small strip of hard-standing, a footpath and then Dereham Road.
In December 2011, permission was refused to convert the building to a dwelling. A new owner has since acquired the site and appointed A Squared to develop a more sympathetic response.
To overcome the lack of amenity space outside the building, a courtyard is proposed within the centre, of around 3 metres by 5 metres. An atrium will bring in light without the need for adding windows to the outside.
Meanwhile, the three-arched windows on the front of the building will be restored in painted timber and the infill removed to resemble the Chapel before it was altered for use as a fire station.
The design statement continues: “Due to the limited extent of external space, no car parking will be provided. There are public car parking spaces in the Market Place, which could be utilised if required.” Further, the narrow passageway will be gated and used for refuse and cycle storage.
The Reepham Society supported the planning application. Speaking on behalf of the Society’s planning advisory group, Jolyon Booth commented that conversion to a dwelling seems the only possible use for this building.
“We supported it last time in 2011,” he said. “One of the reasons why Broadland District Council turned it down was because it meant the loss of a community facility that was not being replaced – ignoring the fact that Reepham already had a surfeit of public halls.”
Mr Booth continued: “We admire the measures to overcome the lack of outdoor amenity space and we are pleased that the design will also restore the front elevation. We think the eventual occupiers of the building will easily find a satisfactory way to overcome the lack of immediately adjacent parking space.”
Reepham Town Council, which discussed the planning application at its January meeting, made no objection to the planning application, but thought there needed to be consideration for the lack of adequate parking and storage of fuel.
The Town Council was also concerned with the suggestion that residents would park their vehicles in the Station Road car park, which is already full to overflowing on a daily basis.