Blackpool church loses planning battle with council

A Blackpool church has lost the latest chapter in its battle to install an LED sign on the front of the building.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Friday, 20th August 2021, 11:15 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 11:17 am
Layton Methodist Church
Layton Methodist Church

Leaders at Layton Methodist Church on Westcliffe Drive had submitted an appeal after the council twice turned down planning permission for the sign.

Now an independent planning inspector has also thrown out the application, backing the council’s ruling that the digital message board would be out of keeping with the heritage of the church which is locally listed.

The inspector also dismissed warnings from ecclesiastical chiefs who said the sign was needed to help the church survive.

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In a written report planning inspector J.M. Tweddle branded the sign “a prominent and discordant feature that would significantly harm the amenity of the area.”

The report added: “I acknowledge the appellant’s comments in relation to the challenges faced by churches and that many face the threat of closure.

“I also recognise the important social role that the church plays in the local community and its desire to modernise its methods of advertising events and activities in order to reach a wider audience and realise financial efficiencies.

“However, these matters do not outweigh the harm I have found, and I have no evidence before me to suggest that the church would cease its activities in the event that the appeal should not succeed.

“Nor am I convinced that the use of an LED digital sign is the only effective way of promoting the church’s activities to the public.”

The council had refused the application because it wanted to avoid ‘visual clutter’ in the area.

But the applicant had warned with many churches closing, it was vital to advertise events and services using modern technology.

They said 15 churches in Blackpool had either closed, were boarded up awaiting demolition or had been converted to non-religious uses in recent years.

The council is currently considering proposals to create a conservation area in Layton to protect its heritage.

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