Local property developer Nabeel Mussarat is now embarking on several developments on four churches in different locations across the Greater Manchester area. With each of the former churches being a grade II listed buildings all built in the 1800s, it is now Mussarat’s job to undertake the careful and considerate task in the wake of the exchanges to gain the appropriate planning permission that still retains the characteristics of each building.
The four churches, St John the Baptist in Godley, New Bury St James in Bolton, Smallbridge St John in Rochdale and Heywood St James, all have similar histories but will have to be approached in different ways depending on their respective local council building control standpoints.
A closed Church of England church is sold under special legal provision – a Pastoral (Church Buildings Disposal) Scheme is the legal document empowering the Church Commissioners to sell a closed church for a specific use. The sale of the church would, therefore, be subject to the making of such a scheme following public consultation on what would serve the community area best.
The properties have planning for a F1 use, which is for place of worship. The use needs to be changed to F1 (community centre) which means that moving forward the properties could also be used as a nursery, training centre, clinic or community centre. In the case of these four churches, the aim is to establish four new community hubs and attempt to replicate the sense of togetherness that the churches may have had in their heyday.
Mr Mussarat is aiming to establish a network of community and function areas that will give back to the community and serve as a place for young people to turn to, also offering entertainment and extra-curricular activities similar to how it would have done in the past and contribute towards the general rejuvenation of each respective area.
“The planning permission we are aiming to get for these churches offers an exciting opportunity overall to really give something back to the community and offer some exciting new events and activities to occupy young people in the area. It is important to retain the characteristics of the churches themselves, so by using them as community hubs I believe that we can accomplish that” – Nabeel Mussarat