Councillors today approved in principle a planning application to build a new church in Stornoway.

The application, made by the Stornoway High Free Church, was to construct a church and associated car park at Smith Avenue, and would mean the cutting down of 15% of the tree plantation currently located there.

Today’s meeting of the Environmental and Protective Services committee heard that there had been 16 representations from the public, all opposing the development.

However, a report before councillors stated that the concerns did not carry sufficient weight to refuse the application, and the recommendation was that the application be granted.

The plan is to build a church and associated 77-space car park on land opposite the running and athletics track.

The area of land is owned by the Stornoway Trust.

At today’s meeting, Cllr Zena Stewart said she felt ‘very disappointed’ that councillors were being asked to approve the planning application.

“Given how few trees we have it’s a shame that these are going to be cut down,” she said.

Cllr Rae Mackenzie said it was ‘sad that another church is being built at a time when we should all be getting together’.

“I have spoken to a lot of people about this and everyone was against it,” said Cllr Mackenzie.

“We already have acres of car parking which will not be in use 99 per cent of the time that the church is being used.

“It seems ludicrous that all this space is going to be taken up by another car park.

“It is a shame to chop down the few trees there are on the island.”

Councillors ultimately agreed to approve the application, subject to various planning conditions.

The High Free Church say that some facilities within the new build would be made available to community groups, with the main sanctuary only for worship services.

The church congregation has been without a permanent home since splitting with the Church of Scotland two years ago. 

At present their Sunday services are held in Stornoway Primary School, while the midweek meetings are held in the Retirement Centre, Bayhead, with English Prayer meetings on Tuesdays and Saturdays and Gaelic Prayer meetings on Thursdays.