Holy war breaks out as neighbours fight bid to scrap church for shops

John Tant in front of the church, which would take space upstairs above the shops

John Tant in front of the church, which would take space upstairs above the shops

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NEIGHBOURS of a church in Stenhouse say they fear huge disruption from proposals to demolish it and replace it with shops.

Under the plan, Stenhouse Gorgie Baptist Church in Stenhouse Place East would be knocked down and a two-storey building put up in its place with a car park, three shops and an upstairs space for the church.

A Tesco Metro and a Greggs would take up two of the retail spaces.

Residents of the street say they fear heavy traffic and noisy deliveries, and worry that existing local shops will be forced to close because of the cut-price competition.

Taxi driver John Tant, who lives across the road from the church, attended a public meeting held there this week to discuss the proposal.

He said: “It was packed and the general feeling was that nobody in the hall wants this project to go ahead.

“The residents in the vicinity don’t want this and we’ve put our objections in to the council.

“I stay right across the road opposite it, and there are going to be kids hanging around, it’s a quiet residential street, all the deliveries coming and going and people parking in the street – it’s going to cause us all sorts of problems and there are shops 50 yards away that serve the community quite well, we don’t need any more.”

David Coutts, who is representing both the developer Endeavour UK and the church, acknowledged there had been complaints at the public meeting that many people had been unaware of the proposal.

In response, he planned to suggest to the developer that it withdraw the existing planning application and start the process again to give people a fresh chance to raise objections.

He said: “There’s obviously going to be concern locally if somebody’s coming along to knock down a church but we think it’s a good application.

“The church is 80 years old, it’s about to fall down, and there’s no ventilation, so the deal the developer is offering is to build a new church at no cost to the church and make a big contribution to the furniture for the building.

“A lot of people who shop at Stenhouse Cross at the moment are elderly people or people with no cars who walk to Stenhouse Cross, so this will be an extra facility for them.”

Mr Coutts said deliveries would be restricted to day times, and that the new application could alter the layout so the car park was at the front, rather than the rear of the plot, leaving the shops further from homes on the opposite side of the road.

However, Mr Tant said he would rather the development didn’t happen at all.

He said: “The only thing I prefer about ‘Plan B’ is that my house would be facing the car park rather than bin stores.”

Anne Stevenson, vice chairwoman of Stenhouse, Saughton Mains and Whitson Community Council, said: “We can see the pros and cons to the development and we’re disappointed that the community wasn’t consulted at an earlier stage, but we’re happy that the church and the developer seem to be trying to rectify that.”