PLANS to convert the ground floor of Park Street Methodist Church in Blaenavon into a funeral home have been unanimously approved.

The proposal which will see the back of the ground floor extended by demolishing a wall to allow access for a hearse into the building, as well as extensions to accommodate a reception area and office space for the funeral services business, was given the green light by Torfaen council's planning committee on Tuesday.

Under the plans the chapel and place of worship will be relocated to the upper floor and retained in a smaller floor area, with part of the ground floor also maintained for church use.

Cllr Stuart Ashley (Pontnewydd ward) was among those to speak in support of the plans at the planning committee meeting.

He said: "I think it's commendable, bearing in mind that elsewhere we are actually demolishing churches.

"Blaenavon's got a lot of them and it's actually really good to see an alternative use that preserves the fabric of the church in situ."

Cllr Neil Waite (Cwmynyscoy) also expressed his support, and sought to alleviate concerns over parking.

Concerns were previously expressed that existing parking problems in Park Street would be made worse.

A petition of objection signed by 23 people was submitted, as well as photos showing existing parking congestion.

Six letters of objection and three of support were also lodged.

Cllr Steven Evans (Upper Cwmbran) asked how the proposal would affect traffic congestion in the morning.

But Norman Jones, from the council's planning department, pointed out that funerals would take place infrequently and probably during the middle of the day when traffic is less busy.

The meeting also heard that funerals already take place at the chapel in Park Street, and that the funeral service is sensitive to parking issues in the area.

Under the plans the original organ and stained glass window in the chapel, dating back to 1885, will also be kept.

Councillors voted unanimously to approve the application after a recommendation was put forward by Cllr Ashley.