AN iconic Ilminster church could become accommodation for adults with learning disabilities if plans get the go-ahead.

Ilminster Methodist Church, off West Street, has been closed since 2005 due to high maintenance costs and a dwinding congregation.

An application to South Somerset District Council by Chris Baranowski, on behalf of Robert Doak, lays out plans to convert the Grade II listed building into 12 rooms.

The developers say the conversion would prolong the life of the church building.

They say: “In the ideal world the most appropriate use for such a fine building is as worship, but this is not possible and a use has to be found that will preserve the building within its historical context, but is also, crucially, economically viable to sustain the cost of repairs and refurbishment of the main structure, and the costs of conversion to the new use.

“The church is an important presence in Ilminster. The building makes a vital contribution to local identity, provides a link to people’s collective past and helps to maintain local pride in the area.”

The developers say church conversions always need “careful consideration” to “ach-ieve a balance between the requirements of a new function while retaining the qualities of the original building”.

The 12 rooms in the church, which dates back to 1887, will consist of six two-bedroom and six one-bedroom units over two floors.

In 2009, planning permission was given to build four self-contained dwellings in the church rooms with parking at the back of the building, the developers wanting to save these buildings while retaining its character.

In 2012, a development of nine houses was completed in Ditton Street for 11 adults with learning disability.

The online application adds: “The proposed conversion aims to retain as much of the character as possible within the economic constraints associated with upgrading the building to modern standards and thus ensuing its longevity.

“All works to the building will be reversible to protect the integrity of the structure.”