Planning application for Scots Church manse lodged

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An Cultúrlann are pressing ahead with their refurbishment plans for the former Third Derry Church in Great James’ Street with an application for planning permission.

The Irish language and culture organisation acquired the premises at Great James’ Street as part of a major planned expansion.

An application for planning permission for the refurbishment of the manse building has now been lodged, along with site maps and drawings. An Cultúrlann are planning to use the manse building as an academy of traditional music, while the former church will be used as a concert venue and performance space.

Earlier this year, the Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin Chief Executive Gearóid Ó hEára spoke of his hope that the former congregation, now based in Kilfennan, would build links as the work is carried out.

“Some of our staff have been in touch with members of the Presbyterian Congregation in Kilfennan and we would hope to build links with them and make them welcome if they wish to visit the Church”, Mr Ó hEára said.

The Church and the adjoining Manse building were designed by Stewart Gordon, with a neo-classical style facade for the Church. It operated from 1837 until the congregation moved to Kilfennan in the Waterside in the early 1980s. It is sometimes known as the Scots Church.

The planning application for the refurbishment of the Manse is for listed building consent.

Amongst the various reports, maps and site plans available to view online from the Planning Service website is a report from a property preservation company based in Coleraine, who note that the manse requires urgent refurbishment. “The property consists of a three storey former manse of solid wall construction. The property has been derelict for a number of years and has fallen into a very poor state of repair”, the report notes.

“Numerous and extensive outbreaks by the True Dry Rot Fungus, Serpula lacrymans were noted to be affecting the timber floors and joinery timbers on all floor levels of the property. Large areas of the floor structure had collapsed as a result of the outbreaks. Timber lintel are in position above all window and door openings and these timbers will also be affected by fungal decay.

“The building is in a dangerous condition and access at this time should be restricted to only the personnel who are to be engaged in the restoration project.

“The outbreaks of dry rot have been caused by the building being allowed to gall into a very poor state of repair over a prolonged period of time. Dampness is penetrating through from the outside and it would appear that vandals have also caused extensive damage internally. It is therefore essential to carry out all necessary repairs in order to ensure that the source of all dampness is ceased. Failure to stop the dampness will allow further outbreaks to develop in the future.”

The chief executive of Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, Gearóid Ó hEára, said the additional space would help the growth and development of the Irish language in the city and provide a lasting legacy to the historic Fleadh Cheoil na hÉierann, which bought 430,000 visitors to the city in August last year.

Mr Ó hEára said the expanded Cultúrlann complex would become the city’s newest cultural quarter. “The idea of a cultural quarter based in Great James Street is fast becoming a reality and I am pleased that we will be able to restore two listed buildings and bring them into cultural use.”