A CHURCH has been given the go-ahead to replace old wooden frames with new uPVC windows in a conservation village after arguing they would be more energy efficient and save money.

Elcho Place Hall in Cockenzie has been used as a place of worship for more than 100 years, according to its congregation website, which also states that its members believe "that the Bible is the written word of God, completely true and can be trusted in every detail".

But when it applied for permission to replace its single-glazing windows at the front and side of its building, East Lothian Council planners said that the proposed uPVC replacements would be "harmful" to its character and appearance.

READ MOREChurch appeals after being refused permission for windows

A meeting of the council’s local review body last week overturned the decision after the majority of councillors ruled that the uPVC windows would benefit the hall.

And they pointed out that the hall, which is not a listed building, was surrounded by others in the street which already had the plastic window frames.

In the appeal, the hall owners said that the cost of replacing the windows of the hall with new timber frames would be too expensive.

They said: “We cannot afford wooden windows from a cost point of view and ongoing maintenance. We have also experienced massive energy cost increases and the inefficiency of our windows is not helping.”

The hall was granted planning permission five years ago to replace windows which are not visible from High Street, which it faces onto, with uPVC alternatives.

'Undesirable precedent'

Review body members were  told by planning officer Paul Zochowski that planners had insisted windows at the front of the hall be replaced with like-for-like timber frames or it would set an "undesirable precedent" in the area.

He added: “While I note the applicant has said they cannot afford new timber windows, affordability is not a planning consideration.”

Review body member Councillor Neil Gilbert told the meeting that, having visited the hall and seen that some of it already had uPVC glazing which would also be more energy efficient, he would be supporting the application.

He said: “The property is already partially double glazed with uPVC frames and, to me, the building itself is a far more modern building not in keeping with other properties in the street.

“I noted also that other properties in Cockenzie High Street are already fitted with uPVC windows on close proximity to this building.”

Councillor Kenny McLeod added: “There is so much glazing all around, in my opinion it will enhance the building.”

And fellow review body member Councillor Donna Collins also backed the appeal, saying it wound create "uniformity" for the building and pointed out that the hall itself was not a listed building.

However, Councillor Andrew Forrest, chair of the review body, backed the officers’ decision, saying he would be voting against the appeal, adding: “Looking at this building on its own and looking at the uPVC at the back, I don’t think it has enhanced the building at all and will detract from it if it goes ahead.”

The appeal was granted and approval for the new windows given by three votes to one.