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Church support centre finally set to get under way

WORK to transform part of an Accrington church into a family support centre is finally set to get underway in the next few months.

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WORK to transform part of an Accrington church into a family support centre is finally set to get underway in the next few months.

SureStart Hyndburn originally revealed plans to transform a wing of St Peter's Church back in February 2003.

Progress has been slow because of fund-raising discussions and activities, but this week St Peter's vicar, the Rev David Lyons, revealed the work was likely to start by this summer.

The Richmond Street church will lease part of the building to SureStart, which will provide support facilities to families, such as childcare and education.

Mr Lyons welcomed the development, saying: "A lot of churches are looking at ways of using their buildings to enrich the life of the community at large. I expect the work to start in a few months and it should take six months to complete. There will be two play areas downstairs for children."

The upstairs will be used by community groups and will include a computer suite, a lift for disabled access and a kitchen and toilets.

But Ann-Marie Foster, SureStart manager, said she had concerns about promoting the scheme too soon.

"We have learned from bitter experience that people's expectations are raised when plans are given a lot of coverage," she said. "People are then frustrated when things don't happen in time for a particular date. However, it is definitely going ahead because the funding is in place."

Father Lyons, who has been the parish priest for 13 years, hopes the scheme will increase his congregation.

He said: "Churches are usually closed but we will be open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and people will be able to come in to say a prayer or use the facilities. I am excited about the plans because they give us a chance to make contact with people and open our doors."

The church, a grade-two listed building, has been declared "technically redundant", a necessary formality due to English law not allowing the lease of a consecrated building. However, the church will continue to be used for worship.