Destruction of 180-year-old Gothic church doors at Penicuik development sparks row with Midlothian council

Midlothian planners described the move as an ‘unacceptable loss’
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The destruction of a 180-year-old Gothic church hall’s doors has been described as ‘most regrettable’ in a report to Scottish Ministers.

Midlothian Council issued an enforcement order against Southfield homes Edinburgh Ltd after they removed the doors as part of a conversion of the 19th century building in Penicuik.

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The building was turned into housing but the council said the timber doors were expected to be retained in the new design and ordered the developer to reinstate them.

South church hall, West Street, Penicuik, before it was converted into housingSouth church hall, West Street, Penicuik, before it was converted into housing
South church hall, West Street, Penicuik, before it was converted into housing

Now it has been revealed the doors have been destroyed making it impossible to assess claims by the developers that they were beyond repair.

Southfield Homes appealed to Scottish Ministers to overturn the enforcement order arguing that the changes to the building had improved the look of the building and the surrounding conservation area.

The church hall, which opened in 1843 as a home for the Free Church congregation, was put up for sale by the Church of Scotland three years ago.

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Midlothian planners said the developers did not apply for Listed Building Consent before replacing the original storm doors and windows of the hall. They said: “The works that have been undertaken are considered to result in the unacceptable loss of historic fabric of architectural importance.”

In their appeal to Scottish ministers, agents for Southfield Homes argued the changes were required to meet building regulations. Their submission said: “There are few who would not agree that the appearance of the building as a result of the alterations undertaken have significantly approved the appearance of the building and the conservation area within which it is situated.”

But rejecting the appeal against the enforcement order, the Scottish Government Reporter, disagreed with the applicant’s claim the ‘unashamedly modern’ doors were an improvement. They said: “I disagree with the appellant that this approach is somehow more respectful to the building than reusing the original doors. I consider the opposite to be true.”

And they criticised the actions around the doors saying: “the appellant has asserted that the original doors were beyond repair. However, in those circumstances the correct approach would have been to first apply for and obtain listed building consent for an alternative to retaining the original doors.

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“By proceeding without consent, this has most regrettably also resulted in the destruction of the original doors. No assessment of their condition is now possible, but like-for-like replacements, including Gothic detailing, would still be capable of being made.”

The developers have been ordered to carry out the terms of the enforcement notice which calls for the original doors to be reinstalled or replaced with a like for like alternative within six months.