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Church on ancient site up for sale after council refuses to pay repair bill

Church Kirk in Accrington - Photo Alexander P Kapp/Creative Commons

A FORMER parish church built on a site used for worship for almost 14 centuries is up for sale after its repair bill became insurmountable.

St James’s, Hyndburn, Accrington, was founded in 1546 at a town centre location first used by Christians in 642. The present Grade II* building, which dates from 1763, became the parish church in 1870, and is known locally as Church Kirk. It closed in 2015, when a new church opened near by.

A regeneration trust led by Graham Jones, the former Labour MP for the constituency, Hyndburn, wanted to use the building as a community resource, but could not afford the repair and maintenance costs without outside help. He said that the trust had applied for grants from relevant bodies, including £30,000 from Hyndburn Council, which had turned them down.

He still hopes, however, that the Council will reverse its decision. “It would be an absolute disgrace if this building was sold rather than saved for the community,” he said. “Church Kirk is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Hyndburn.”

In a statement explaining the decision of Blackburn diocese to sell the church for about £75,000, the Archdeacon of Blackburn, the Ven. Mark Ireland, said: “The building was, and is, in very poor condition, and needs significant funds for repairs.” He had “worked hard” to find a future for the church, he said. “I am very sorry we have not been able to find a lasting solution to enable continued community use.

“Closing the doors of St James’s was a sad moment for the community, but the ‘church’ is the people who worship in the building, not the building. At the same time as we closed Church Kirk, we opened a new church aimed specifically at families.

“Meanwhile, we have continued to maintain and monitor this listed building. This is expensive in relation to ongoing insurance costs, and there have also been attempted break-ins since the closure. To have a large building like this vacant for a long period is also a safety risk; so the diocese must consider its duty of care to the local community in this respect.”

The diocese was “still open to further conversations”, he said. All offers would be considered, including those from community groups, “as long as they have a viable business plan for the future of the building”.


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