Countryside in Shropshire

Project challenges for Grade II listed chapel conversion

Project challenges for Grade II listed chapel conversion

Forge Property has been involved with a chapel conversion that highlights a number of challenges we face on a regular basis. The conversion entails the transformation of a former chapel into a house. In this case study, we explore what can be involved to obtain both listed and planning approval.

Sited in history

The Calvinistic Methodist chapel is Grade II listed and is currently in good condition. It’s located in the village of Llanarmon-yn-Iâl in Denbighshire. The building first dates from 1786, when it was opened by Thomas Charles. It was rebuilt in 1812 and again in 1867, with these renovations reflected in the building. The chapel is built of rock-faced squared grey limestone with slate roof and cornice-profiled cast-iron gutters. The current façade is a late example of its type and features four large arched windows, with an arched door between the first and second windows, and an arched plaque over the door. Ty Capel is attached to the right end of the building. The left end wall has two arched windows and a reset ‘1786’ date plaque with biblical texts. Features such as these are an important part of the site’s history and as well as ensuring its listed status, need to be retained in any future design.

A complex project

Our involvement was to obtain approval from planning and listed building consent, by providing plans and elevations, a design access statement and all the mandatory documents required to have the application validated in the first instance.

We have been working on the consultation with the various external sources such as ecologists, structural engineers, civil engineering specialists for drainage requirements, and an archaeological surveyor.

The design brief for the converted chapel is for a three-bedroom dwelling, with an open-plan ground floor area. The process began back in April 2023, which gives some indication of how long the planning procedure takes. We first met with the client, to discuss their brief to establish their aspirations. This led to us drawing up a full set of plans of the existing and proposed building and site, with an initial application submitted in May. The process required a variety of different aspects to be covered, as the aim of the project was to retain as much of the historic fabric of the building as possible.

We had to have an Historic Archaeological building survey carried out by specialists. We also had to provide full structural and section details for the new mezzanine floor, windows, doors and new openings. Recent phosphate issues meant the proposed package treatment plant had to be shared with neighbouring property, requiring their septic tank to be decommissioned with their approval. We also had to provide full details of daily discharge, percolation tests and drainage field specification. Details of the heating system, staircase and solid ground floor had to be provided. Outside the building, details of the landscaping – including biodiversity net gains that can be achieved – had to be provided. A structural survey of the existing chapel was required and an external ecology survey was also carried out. It was obvious from the outset that this is a complex project and all this was simply to submit the planning application.

Next steps towards planning

In the meantime, due to planning not yet being approved – and more importantly, the chapel being a listed building – no work can yet commence. This restriction extends to stripping out items such as chapel pews that are in the way of the development and cannot currently be removed. The client also had to prove that commercial use was not a viable option. It should be advertised for a minimum of 12 months as a commercial possibility, before a domestic application could be considered. This aspect was not carried out, which led to a number of problems for the client. The case and full justification for its domestic use had to be provided, along with proof that the local community had not suffered a loss.

Despite all the challenges facing the project, we were able to address them all with help and guidance from the planner (Luci Mayhall) of Denbighshire County Council. Without  her help, positivity and understanding of the client’s requirements there could have been a completely different outcome.  

Following the approval, our senior building surveyor Dave Bates will be conducting the contract admin for the ongoing development. One thing to bear in mind is that planning approval can be a long, drawn-out process, as can establishing listed status. It’s a good idea to get professionals such as Forge involved at the earliest opportunity as our involvement is embedded throughout the entire process.

Speak to our team to find out how we can assist you with your project.


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