West Leeds’s new £2 million centre

St Bartholomew's, where a new �2m community centre is to be built at the side of the church.

St Bartholomew's, where a new �2m community centre is to be built at the side of the church.

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A £2 million multi-faith community centre is to be built next to a church in the heart of west Leeds.

The building will occupy land next to St Bartholomew’s Church in Armley – but it won’t just be for Christians.

Instead it will be a “hub” welcoming all the area’s faiths, denominations, ages and interests.

New designs for the project – which is yet to be funded – have been submitted to Leeds City Council planning chiefs and are due to be discussed in the coming weeks.

A major fundraising campaign will also soon be launched by locals, who will also form a large part of the management committee.

A sizeable chunk of the money is expected to come from the selling off for redevelopment of the existing church hall across the road, and its attached land.

The new two-storey centre will house meeting rooms, a huge new hall and a range of community services.

The project is a labour of love for vicar Father Ian Wright, who estimates a £2 million “ballpark” funding figure.

“The idea was born eight years ago and initiated by my predecessor but it has lain dormant since, and it was one of my briefs to revitalise it and to draw the community together,” he said.

“We have not secured the funding yet - it all depends on the sale of the church land. The proceeds of that will be ploughed into the build.

“Our mission is to bring the community together and share their time, talents and gifts with everyone.”

Jo Thorpe, managing director of Armley’s Healthy Living Network, who will sit on the management committee, said the initial blueprint was “amazing”.

“There’s a lot of willingness in Armley, and lots of lovely people but they are often in pockets spread everywhere. This will bring them together,” she said.

Imam Zeeshan Baloch, priest at the Armley Ghosia Mosque, said: “It’s a blessing from God. We really appreciate the steps Father Ian is taking.”

Another supporter, Zulfi Mohammed from the One People charity, said: “This is not a church project, it’s not a religious project, it’s a centre for the whole community.”

Scott Robinson, 17, from Swallow Hill Community College, who visited the site with members of his school’s student committee, said the project would also bridge the generation gap and be a genuine draw for youngsters.

“There needs to be something to hold the community together,” he said.

aisha.iqbal@ypn.co.uk

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