TOWN councillors have recommended that developers consult further on plans to convert a derelict church into social housing and a community space.

Penarth Town Council's planning and infrastructure committee discussed the Newydd Housing Association application for St Paul's Church at a meeting yesterday (Thursday, January 25).

The plans include 14 one and two bedroom apartments and a 368 square metre community space at the Arcot Street site which has been left empty since 2011.

Residents and members of the St Paul's Church Community Group Kate Davies and Tim Land spoke to members of the committee about the application.

Mrs Davies said that the church was gifted to the people in good faith and was always earmarked for community development.

She said: "It has to be properly thought through. The Vale of Glamorgan has shown short term thinking."

She said the main objections included poor design, the fact that the community facility falls short of what is required and seems like an afterthought and that consultation has been weak.

She suggested that more time be given so that the plans can be properly thought through.

Mr Land said there is "a lot of disappointment" from residents in terms of the whole process with a feeling that decisions were made behind closed doors by the project board.

He also raised the issue that some of the housing would be based in Chapel Lane which would make it a back lane development.

He suggested that lighting and resurfacing may need to be undertaken in this area.

"This is a back lane development. It is setting a dangerous precedent. The Vale council is not making a commitment to infrastructure.

In terms of the facade, which the application plans to maintain, Mr Land said: "It doesn't seem that there has been an assessment to check if the structure is sound."

He also highlighted how Section 106 money from the Penarth Heights development had been earmarked for St Paul's Church.

"Decisions have been made without consultation. There is no discernable strategy for community spaces in Penarth."

Cllr Nigel Humphrey, chairman of the planning committee and Labour member for St Augustine's ward, said: "It is encouraging that there is a strong community feeling which would bode well in terms of future use of the building.

He said he believes as structural survey on the facade is going to be undertaken by Newydd and suggested that the council recommend further consultation is undertaken before the application proceeds.

Cllr Kathryn McCaffer, Conservative member for Plymouth ward, said: "I understand how disappointed you are with the process.

"The social housing is what is required most definitely."

But she also added in terms of the community space: "It needs the community behind it and to use it."

Cllr Humphrey suggested that the council did not object to the application but recommends further consultation on the facade before it proceeds.

"They (Newydd) have offered more consultation and we would like to see that happen."

Cllr Martin Turner, Conservative member for Plymouth ward, welcomed the fact that social housing would be provided and said what is there in the application is what is required.

Speaking about the community space aspect, he added: "It is up to the community to decide what they want to do with it" and suggested the group make use of the expertise and help available through the Vale council.