A BURNLEY businessman said he has faced an “uphill struggle” trying to convert a former church into a cash and carry.
Mr Alyas Khan, who runs outsourcing consultancy Emica Consultants Ltd, which has offices in Manchester and London, said he returned to his Burnley roots to open the business in the former Burnley Lane Baptist Chapel in Colne Road.
But he said the development has been plagued by problems and became a target for thieves, vandals, drug addicts and squatters.
Mr Khan was granted planning permission to use the building as an e-warehouse in 2010. At the same time, a listed building application for the same development was also approved by Burnley Borough Council, on the condition that internal architectural features were maintained.
Town hall bosses are currently carrying out an investigation into the unauthorised removal of some of the features from the Grade II listed building but Mr Khan, who lives in Burnley, said the seating and organ had been removed before he bought the church. He said other features, including a horseshoe balcony, were stolen.
Mr Khan also recently submitted a planning application to incorporate a car parking area at the rear of the church but he withdrew this last week because he said it contained some inaccuracies.
He said that his aim is to bring jobs to the area. Ten would be created at the former church while plans to employ more people at a food manufacturing business are also in the pipeline. Mr Khan is currently looking at potential sites and has already made inquiries at McBride’s.
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and a constant battle. I came back to Burnley because I wanted to invest in the local economy. I could have gone anywhere but I chose to come back to Burnley.”
A Burnley Borough Council spokesman confirmed an investigation into the removal of the period features was under way.