A former church in Newsome could be sold off with plans for it to become a thriving community hub once again.
The Church of St John the Evangelist closed due to dwindling congregations and remaining worshippers joined with Newsome South Methodist Church.
Now the Church of England has made official moves to declare the church closed for regular public worship and to sell the land and buildings for use as a “cultural and community centre.” Public consultation into the plans is open until November 28.
The plan is for the church, which is not listed or in a Conservation Area, to be sold to a community benefit society, which will turn it into a community centre called The Newsome Centre.
Moves to create the community centre are being led by Newsome’s three Green Party councillors Andrew Cooper, Sue Lee-Richards and Karen Allison. The process of setting up the community benefit society is underway.
Clr Cooper said: “We want to create a vibrant facility for the local community with a café, events space and small conference centre which can host meetings, concerts or wedding receptions, though not weddings as they are not allowed in former church buildings.
“There isn’t a café in the centre of Newsome so this will be a comfortable place with wi-fi where people can go and meet.”
The first priority would be the refurbishment of the toilet and kitchen extension block which needs new toilets and a full catering kitchen.
Further works would include making the building wind and watertight, installing more roof lights to bring more light into the building, improving insulation and installing an affordable heating system. Those works could be carried out in phases and not everything would have to be completed before opening.
“The most important thing is to have a robust business plan and that’s what we are working on now,” said Clr Cooper, who this week visited Left Bank Leeds, an arts and events venue created in a grade II-listed former church in Hyde Park, Leeds.
“We are learning from the Left Bank centre and we will look at their business plans and do all the research to give ourselves the confidence to take this forward.
“We want to do this right from the outset and ensure The Newsome Centre is here for the next 30, 40, 50 years.”
The scheme, likely to cost several hundreds of thousands of pounds, was presented to the local community at an open day and had “nothing but a positive response,” added Clr Cooper.
A Church of England consultation document says: “The church has a large churchyard which has been closed for burials for some time. It is proposed to sell some of the churchyard with the building.
“The area for the proposed car park is between the building and Jackroyd Lane, and this was largely cleared of monuments and memorials in the 1970s under the provisions of the Open Spaces Act agreement.
“It is proposed that the car park will be designed around the remaining memorials to enable them to remain in place.”
For more information on the consultation click HERE.