Belfast Telegraph

Newry enlightened after proposal to convert electrical shop into church

By Andrew Madden

Plans are afoot to turn a former electrical shop in Newry into a church.

Murphy's Electrical store, which has been situated at Catherine Street in the city since 1972, closed down four months ago.

Now, Newry Baptist Church has submitted plans to transform the 5,640 sq ft site into a place of worship.

While older church buildings being renovated to accommodate new businesses is not uncommon, converting a business premises into a church is rare.

Newry Baptist Church has submitted a planning application for a "place of worship and ancillary facilities" to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for approval.

According to the proposals, the entire ground floor of the two-storey building, which is currently an open-plan area, will be divided up into a number of rooms for church purposes.

Plans for the ground floor include a large worship area, a creche, a social space and a Sunday School room.

Designs for the first floor of the building propose that it be divided up into a children's area, an office and a small meeting room.

Newry Baptist Church was founded nearly 130 years ago and is understood to have been looking for a permanent space for worship for several years now, as the congregation has grown with a large influx of Polish parishioners joining the church. It is understood the plans for the church will be advertised publicly next week.

A decision by planners is expected in the coming months. Currently, the church holds its Sunday services in a conference room at Enterprise House on Canal Quay.

Some church-to-business conversions have generated some degree of controversy in Northern Ireland.

Last month, residents in south Belfast reacted angrily to City Hall planners giving the green light to a £3m proposal to turn Windsor Baptist Church into an apartment block.

The development at Malone Avenue faced more than 100 objections from residents.

Other conversions have already proven successful.

North Belfast's Indian Community Centre is located in the Carlisle Methodist Memorial Church building, which was built in 1876.

The nearby Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts is based in a former Presbyterian church.

The Belfast Empire Music Hall in south Belfast is a converted church.

Last month, hospitality firm Tullymore House unveiled plans to turn the iconic Holy Rosary Church in south Belfast into a restaurant and 21-bedroom hotel.

Meanwhile, in England, church spires will be used to boost broadband and mobile connectivity in rural areas, the Culture Secretary has announced.

Matt Hancock said the agreement with the Church of England to use spires showed medieval buildings can still help deliver 21st century services.

The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said guidance set out by both the Church and Historic England will ensure that any telecoms infrastructure does not impact on the character and architectural or historic significance of churches.

The majority of Anglican churches (65%) and parishes (66%) in England are in rural areas, often in the heart of their communities, and so are well-placed to tackle problems of poor mobile phone connectivity.

Belfast Telegraph

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