An iconic former church in central Wolverhampton is to be transformed into a major social hub hosting weddings and jazz concerts, if new projects get the green light. The Darlington Street Methodist Church – notable for its large green dome – held its last service in September 2019, closing after nearly 120 years of worship.
A bid to convert the building into a venue capable of hosting a variety of community functions has now been submitted to council by Rajinder Dhinsa, of Wolverhampton-based Hallmark Investment Properties.
Councilor Lynne Moran (Laboratory), who represents the Saint-Pierre district where the old church is located, said: “I remember that the Good Shepherd was doing his best to function effectively in this church building, which was indeed very difficult given its design, age and In principle, we should preserve our old buildings of interest, but this may well be demanding in terms of renovation and security requirements.
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“If there is an investor willing to bring this building up to a good standard and make it commercially viable then that will probably be a good thing. The proposed use for banquets is popular elsewhere and we should have genuine grounds for concern. planning to oppose it.. Improving evening entertainment facilities is likely to be part of the overall development of the city,” she added.
Wolverhampton Conservative Group Deputy Leader Cllr Simon Bennett (Bushbury North) said: “Darlington Street Methodist Church is one of the most historic buildings in the town center and contains a magnificent church organ. Its closure was a sad loss. It is important that the building is restored, returned to service and its heritage protected. Any proposed project must improve the town and it is essential that residents and local businesses agree with the plans .
Proposals will see the church’s famous great organ fully restored and used as a centerpiece in the interior redevelopment. A statement from architects Stephen Sedwell said: “Expressions of support for the positive significance of this building have been strongly apparent in our recent surveys. This is reflected by local authority heritage professionals as well as those passing by. on the street. We have a building here that is transitional.”
However, Cllr Paul Birch (Lab. Blakenhall), who owns and runs Revolver Records on Goldthorn Hill, said he thinks the building could be better used for a different purpose. “The classic early 20th century design of the old church lends itself to becoming a new 4*/5* hotel – which we badly need in the city centre,” he said.
“But instead of planning our city based on the goal and vision we have, we allow developers to take over buildings and then put their planning apps. Once those apps are introduced, planners support almost always developers – citing planning law and regulations to support decisions, which ties the planning committee’s hands behind its back.
“Therefore, we have an urban landscape that is imagined by the developers and not by the city itself, in my opinion,” he added. “As a result, we’ll probably have another Asian banquet center that I frankly don’t think we need. A clear vision is needed to provide a bustling downtown for businesses and residents – not the tired, old-fashioned, quiet city that we have as a gift.”
Located on the corner of Darlington Street and School Street, the Grade II* listed building opened in 1901. Planners will decide on the proposals in the near future.
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