A FORMER village church is set for a new lease of life as a shop after plans were approved by Durham County Council.

Earlier this year, proposals were lodged to change the use of the former Methodist Church off Dunelm Road inThornley.

The plans, from applicant SRJ Convenience Limited, included a new shop front, signage and an ATM.

During consultation, the bid sparked opposition from neighbours with 15 letters of objection submitted to the council.

Concerns ranged from traffic, parking and business competition to “excessive litter” and wider antisocial behaviour issues.

Despite this, the council’s planning authority approved the plans on Friday, May 29.

A decision report reads: “Taking all the relevant issues into consideration, it is considered that the principle of the development is considered acceptable being within a sustainable location and bringing a redundant building into use.

“In addition to this it is considered that impact on highway safety is acceptable as is the impact on the residential amenity of the surrounding neighbours and the visual impact on the amenity of the area.”

The council environmental health officer and Durham Constabulary were also consulted leading to amendments to the scheme to address noise and crime concerns

This included bollards and CCTV being added to the area surrounding the ATM machine and an acoustic fence around chiller units.

The report goes on to say: “Given the amendments proposed, it is considered that whilst there may be some impact on residential amenity given the existing use was a church and there will potentially be more movements, it is not considered that this is significant enough to warrant a refusal of the application in terms of impact on the amenity of residents subject to conditions regarding hours of operation and times of deliveries.”

The development is set to create two full-time and two part-time jobs and litter bins will be provided at the site.

Planners also concluded that the shop development would be acceptable from a highways viewpoint, with adequate parking available.

Agreed opening hours include 7am-11pm, Monday to Saturday and 9am-4pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. No deliveries are allowed between 11pm and 7am.