Council cash to support church transformation to community building

New chapter: St Leonard's at Wortley will develop as a community centre.
New chapter: St Leonard's at Wortley will develop as a community centre.
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Council cash is being used to help transform a church into a community centre for a Barnsley village which lost its last public building years ago.

Wortley has no public buildings, with even the parish council meeting in the hotel at Wortley Hall, which is now a private enterprise, following the closure of its school many years ago.

But the parish church is working to address that problem by making changes which will open up the historic building to be used for community activities as well as for its primary use as a place of worship.

Those plans have been supported by the Penistone Ward Alliance, a body made up of councillors and others with a strong community involvement, who have a budget provided by Barnsley Council to spend supporting work to benefit the district.

They are paying half towards the £2,200 cost of audio-visual equipment which will provide a valuable asset in opening up St Leonard’s church for wider community uses.

Ward alliance funding normally relies on volunteer time to provide added value to the cash awarded but because that was not practical in this case, the decision was made to match the money from church funds.

The parochial church council started work on developing the idea last year, when residents were surveyed for their ideas on the proposals.

Any changes to Church of England buildings are a complex process, because approval has to be given before work can commence.

But it is proposed that at St Leonard’s, some pews will be removed to provide a larger open space within the building, creating the flexibility needed for other community based groups to use the building.

Coun Dave Griffin, who sits on the ward alliance, said: “The church consulted the community in 2017 and identified a need for community space in the village.

“The money will buy audio visual equipment, a drop down screen and other equipment. They have a number of groups which use the church, they tend to take their own and put up their own screen,” he said.

“This will be professionally put together and available for all. It may be used for church purposes as well.”