In 2018, the trustees of Zion Chapel gifted the former Congregational Chapel and Sunday School Hall in Upper Settle to the North Craven Building Preservation Trust, as they had been unable to get planning permission for change to residential use and could not therefore find a buyer for the property. This then prompted us to consider ways in which both The Folly and the Zion buildings might best be used for public benefit. Since November 2019, NCBPT’s Board of Trustees have been developing strategies for the future use of the buildings in our care, with the following aims:
- To ensure the preservation of The Folly and Zion for future generations
- To make The Folly and Zion sustainable for the long term
- To generate income to enable the Trust to save other buildings at risk
- To make the whole of The Folly accessible to all members of the public
- To bring The Folly to life as a hub for local heritage and arts activity
- To find a community use for Zion Chapel and Hall
- To make a positive contribution to the local economy
The cost of implementing all of these projects is estimated to be well over £1 million and fundraising is under way.
Our first step was a project viability study to explore potential uses for the Zion Chapel and Hall, including a first round of public consultation, with support from the Architectural Heritage Fund. This included production of a detailed CAD model, an asbestos survey and examination of the roofs by a specialist structural engineer.
In May 2021, the Charity Commission, the regulatory body for all charities in the UK, contacted both the Zion Trustees and NCBPT regarding concerns that the correct legal procedures may not have been followed when the property was gifted to us. The former Zion Trustees believed that they had followed charity law, but the Charity Commission are requiring them to take additional steps to regularise the situation before they will allow the gift of the property to stand.
Any further development therefore depends upon obtaining the Charity Commission’s agreement that NCBPT has undisputed legal title to the site before we can begin further conservation work on the buildings, although minor repairs to the Chapel roof have been completed and the grounds are regularly maintained by our volunteers. The Trustees of both organisations are working together to resolve the Charity Commission’s concerns and resolve the legal situation, but it could take some months before this is finalised and work can start in earnest to develop the Zion Chapel site for community use.