ST PAUL'S Church is set to be marketed for community and recreational uses – but Vale councillors have raised the possibility of demolishing the former church and rebuilding it.
A community cabinet meeting on Monday, March 24, approved recommendations for third parties to put forward business proposals for the empty building.
Both Penarth Amateur Boxing Club and Penarth Gymnastics Club had been promised the building after work was carried out to repair it and a public consultation found that 62 per cent of local people were in favour of the two clubs being based there.
But they failed to reach an agreement with the council over the redevelopment, after a deadline was set for February, and the future of the building is now open to other groups to submit proposals for community or recreational uses.
Councillor Gwyn John, cabinet member for leisure, parks, culture and sport development , said that the previous administration left the Vale Council with a “headache” when they outlined £250,000 from the Crest Nicholson Penarth Heights development Section 106 money to redevelop St Paul's Church for the two clubs.
He said it was "abundantly clear" that £250,000 would not refurbish the building and make it sustainable for further use.
He added that it was an “election stunt” to offer the money in the first place and that in his view the better option would be to demolish the former church and rebuild it.
Llantwit First Independents Cllr John said that the building was in a “very dangerous condition” and that people needed to work together and find a way forward as the present situation was “absolutely dreadful”.
He added that the recommendations before cabinet would find a way forward for third parties “to come forward with proposals to secure the future of the building”.
During a question and answer session after the cabinet meeting Dr Martin Whitehill, chairman of Penarth Marina and Haven Residents’ Association, said the former church should be demolished, converted into flats, and the money raised from the sale go towards a community centre at Penarth Marina.
He said that Penarth Marina was “desperate for a community centre” and that because of its age redeveloping St Paul’s Church would be like fixing up an old house and it “doesn’t make sense as you would spend every weekend putting it back together again”.
He said: “The church should be sold for a housing development and proceeds from that sale, plus Section 106 money, should be used to build a purpose built building down in the marina.
“Rather than the top of the marina the bottom of the zig zag path should benefit, and we could invite clubs, such as the boxing and gymnastics clubs, to come and join us.”
He added that he had heard that the crèche at Penarth Leisure Centre had recently closed and that they would like to incorporate them, as well as other clubs.
Councillor Lis Burnett, who represents the St Augustines ward which incorporates both St Paul’s Church and Penarth Marina, said that the area around St Paul’s Church was desperate for a community facility as currently the only place where local residents could meet was the Windsor Arms pub.
Michael Poole, who is behind a community enterprise bidding to put forward a proposal for a multi-functional sports facility at St Paul’s Church, said that the building needed to be preserved and returned to its former glory as it was part of Penarth’s heritage.
“We need to save the building and not make it into a boring block of flats,” he said.
Councillor Neil Moore, leader of the Vale Council, said that the council came to an “impasse” with Penarth Amateur Boxing Club and Penarth Gymnastics Club, but added: “If the clubs are still interested they need to come forward as we are not chucking the baby out with the bath water, but we are giving others the opportunity to submit proposals”.