Thou shall not enter! Conservative church to convert school into private members-only shop

The former Little Plumstead Primary School Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

The former Little Plumstead Primary School Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Part of a former village primary school could be converted into a shop exclusively for members of an evangelical Christian church.

The former Little Plumstead Primary School Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019

The former Little Plumstead Primary School Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Daniel Lyon is seeking permission to turn part of the former Little Plumstead Primary School into a store for members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

But concerns have been raised about a potential conflict of trade with a long-awaited community shop located a few hundred metres away in the village.

In a planning application to Broadland District Council, Mr Lyon stressed the church's shop at the Witton Lane school site would not impact sales.

He said: 'Use will be restricted to solely those members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

The former Little Plumstead Primary School Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019

The former Little Plumstead Primary School Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

'It has been made clear that there will therefore be no conflict of trade with the proposals relating to the nearby 'Walled Garden Community Shop'.'

The proposed Walled Garden shop, on Old Hall Road, has been in the pipeline since 2017 and received planning permission last year.

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Great and Little Plumstead parish councillor Andrew Cawdron said while the council was supportive of redundant buildings being used, he was a 'bit nervous' about the church asking for retail use.

He said: 'The point I made at a meeting on Monday was that once they have retail use [permission], should they move on they can sell the site with that permission, which could allow for direct competition [with the other shop].'

However, he said conditions could be imposed by the district council to ensure that does not happen.

Plans show the church's shop would take up most of the school building, located next to an existing gospel hall.

A separate application has also been lodged to build a house on the school site.

In a statement, Mr Lyon said the shop will have limited opening hours and will specifically cater for a 'small selection or residents in the immediate vicinity and wider'.

He added: 'We have had open discussions with the governors of the community shop project to reassure them that there will be no conflict but actually feel it could increase the potential for the community shop.'

The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church was founded in the 19th Century and is sometimes referred to as the Exclusive Brethren.

A rigid code of conduct based strictly on Bible teaching must be followed by worshippers and there is a strong focus on the family unit.

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