An online petition has been set up campaigning to save woodland set to be cleared for the construction of a new church in Stornoway.

The petition has been made in response to yesterday’s decision by the Comhairle’s Environment and Protective Services committee, to grant outline planning permission to the Stornoway High Free Church.

The application 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.

Yesterday’s meeting 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.

The petition, entitled ‘Stop Church Erection’ has so far been signed by 276 supporters.

It reads: “Many locals are not nesseceraly (sic) opposed to people having a place to worship in, but what people are opposed to are plantations and natural habitats being taken away for the sake of a building and car park, where there are many old buildings lying dormant in and around Stornoway, which could be refurbished.

"15% of plantation being taken away may not seem that much to some, but by taking away any plantation, you are not only destroying an animals home, but you are destroying the Earth too. Two local councillors have also protested against the build of the church due to cutting down the plantation as well as 16 local representations - but 16 is not enough! We must have more to make the council re-think it's approval of planning permission. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide, and breathe out oxygen. We breathe out carbon dioxide and we breathe in oxygen. Without trees, we are not here.”

Some comments left on the petition page read as follows:

We do not need 77 parking spaces for churchgoers when there is parking at the Nicolson, the council and tesco which is lying empty on a Sunday, and in the evenings. Also the trees are few and far between in Lewis without chopping more down. And we have enough churches. When I lived on the mainland the church I went to met in the local high school. There are plenty if alternatives to a new build. Refurbish or renovate.

I live in the adjoining road and this part of Stornoway has seen a huge increase in car parking over the last few years. At Sandwick Road the Nicholson Institute and opposite the proposed church at the pupil drop off, half the time there are vast empty spaces for car parking that is only required during the day. None of this is used on Sunday and little in the evenings so the church should be able to find enough car parking without destroying the last bit of green space on this side of town.

Save the trees and leave all "creatures great and small" - a forest has got to be more "bright and beautiful" than a church and car park. Right?