In a quiet corner of Aberdeenshire, the vacant Leslie Parish Church near Insch finds itself in the midst of a storm as proposals to repurpose the disused structure into a two-bedroom residence face opposition from locals concerned about its impact on the adjacent cemetery.
The buyer, who acquired the church for a modest £34,000 in August 2020, envisions a residential transformation in line with the growing trend of repurposing historical structures across the UK. However, the tranquillity of this vision is disrupted by the opposition from nearby residents, spearheaded by an occupant of the church manse.
Expressing concerns through legal channels, the resident emphasized that the graveyard surrounding the church still attracts tourists and family members paying respects to their departed loved ones. Legal representatives contend that the proposed conversion could disturb the peace essential for visitors engaging in “quiet reflection.”
Representatives elaborated on practical aspects, stating, “Practically, there would be no garden ground available to the occupants of the church within the graveyard itself.” The peculiar location of the church amidst gravestones raises questions about the compatibility of residential use within such sacred grounds.
Adding weight to the argument, legal representatives expressed concerns about potential noise disruptions arising from domestic activities within the transformed church. “Sounds from the dwelling house, such as from TV or music, children playing, or general domestic activities, may interrupt those visiting the graveyard, considering its role as a place for quiet reflection and contemplation.”
Despite these concerns, council authorities granted approval for the transformation plans. The decision, as recorded, states, “This proposal is an appropriate change of use and alteration to the existing Leslie Parish Church that will bring a redundant building back to use and ensure that its future is more certain.”
Addressing concerns about alterations, the decision further notes, “Minimal changes are proposed to the exterior of the building, which do not harm the building’s special architectural character.” However, this assurance has done little to appease those fearing the potential disruption of the sacred atmosphere surrounding the graveyard.
A resident from Banchory voiced her unease, citing worries about potential restrictions on access to the graveyard. She explained that her family has several plots within the cemetery, and any hindrance to customary visits would be distressing.
The clash of perspectives between the local community and the council’s decision highlights the delicate balance between the preservation of historical structures and sensitivity toward spaces imbued with emotional and cultural significance.
As the controversy unfolds, it raises broader questions about the adaptive reuse of religious structures across the UK. Leslie Parish Church, like many others, stands as a testament to the architectural and historical heritage of the region. However, the clash of visions regarding its future use underscores the challenges faced by communities in navigating the fine line between progress and preservation.
For now, the fate of Leslie Parish Church hangs in the balance, caught between the aspirations of a new homeowner and the concerns of a community unwilling to compromise the sanctity of its sacred grounds.