A Penarth church will be converted into flats despite a long-running campaign to retain the building for community use, writes Matt Discombe.

Prior to being left empty since 2011, the church was used by Penarth Gymnastics Club and Penarth Boxing Club were forced to leave on safety grounds.

A community interest group attempted to bring a multi-purpose shared fitness space to the building in 2015 but the project board rejected the plans because of the business case was not viable.

Newydd Housing Association has been given permission to turn St Paul’s church into 14 affordable apartments, with some of the building being used as a community hall.

The church will be demolished to make way for the development of 11 one bed and three two-bed flats, but the front facade of the church will be retained.

Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Planning Committee approved the plans on Thursday night (April 26), despite protestations that it would lead to an over-development of the area.

Sarah Sweeney, chairwoman of St Paul’s Community Group, told the meeting: “St Paul’s has long been viewed as a community centre in one shape or another since it was built.

“The community facility element of this proposal falls short of the expectations of the community in terms of size and in consultation.”

A petition to save the church gathered more than 150 signatures last year.

But Cllr Neil Thomas told the meeting there is “a significant need for such housing in the St Augustine’s area.”

He said: “There has been a long-standing problem of fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour in the area. It’s my belief that this development will help reduce that problem.

“People who engage in this kind of behaviour don’t generally like to be watched by residents who can report them.”

Jon Hurley, director of planning consultants WYG, said there are currently 391 people on housing lists in Penarth.

He said: “The church represents a distinct regeneration opportunity for Penarth which will deliver much needed affordable homes and community space.”