Progress at last for church’s ‘hub’

St Bartholomew Church, Armley, where a new two million community centre is to be built at the side of the church.
St Bartholomew Church, Armley, where a new two million community centre is to be built at the side of the church.
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Proposals for a £2 million multi-faith community centre attached to a Leeds church are finally moving forward after 18 months of planning delays.

The building next to Armley’s St Bartholomew’s Church has been envisioned as a “hub” welcoming all the area’s faiths and denominations.

It will replace the existing hall across the road from the church, which would be sold off for redevelopment.

The proceeds of the sell-off will part-fund the new project, although bosses admit finding further funding depends on first securing planning permission.

Concerns over potential parking issues and other planning matters had left the proposals dragging since they were first unveiled last year.

Regeneration experts Blue Fin have now been hired to oversee the project and today, at 6.30pm, the church is hosting a community meeting to discuss moving the plans forward and fundraising ideas.

Imelda Havers, from Blue Fin, said the existing church hall buildings were “coming to the end of their shelf life” and there was a “fairly urgent and pressing need” to replace them.

“The idea is to have a brand new building, physically linked to the church,” she said. “We will have a much bigger building which will offer a lot more. It could be a business space, host events and all communities.”

Ms Havers said it was hoped that the new centre would be built before the old one “completely gives up the ghost”.

“Once planning permission is through, we will look at how the funding will come together,” she added.

“We would be very lucky to get any commitments from any major funders before the planning permission.”

Vicar Father Ian Wright said concerns about potential parking issues had now been “overcome”, as the new centre would have overspill parking at nearby St Bartholomew’s School.

The project is a labour of love for Fr Wright, who previously said he wants to use it to “draw the community together”.

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