A RIFT is threatening to split a Bolton church over plans to develop the building.

The vicar and wardens of St Peter’s Parish Church want to build a £435,000 conservatory-style café extension to prevent the church becoming a “dead, ancient monument”.

But some parishioners believe the money would be better used to help those in need.

Apart from the café complex, the “Big Vision” for the Halliwell church would include spending a further £200,000. 

Around £100,000 would be needed to replace two church corridors.

A further £80,000 of repairs are needed on the church tower, and the east window of the Grade II listed building requires £25,000 of repairs. 

In a letter to parishioners the vicar of St Peter’s, the Rev Paul Hardingham, said the proposals had been put forward to help the church become the centre of the local community.

Building an extension on the north side of church for the café venue at a cost of £435,000 would provide an additional 132sqm of space.

Redeveloping the existing lounge would cost £400,000 and would only provide an extra space of 32sqm.

Faced with such a decision, one member of the PCC said it was a “no-brainer” and the PCC voted almost unanimously to explore the feasibility of building the extension.

Opponents of the plans say instead of an extension, money would be better used to provide a ministry, such as a Families Minister or a support worker for Johnson Fold.

They also question if the Church Road church is in the right place for a Christian cafe and are concerned that it would have a negative impact on two other Christian cafes nearby.

One angry parishioner said: “It’s a ridiculous and bizarre idea. The money would be better spent helping those living in poverty in our parish.

“There is no need for a mega conservatory of a café. We already have a parish centre just 200 metres from the church with meeting rooms and fully-equipped kitchen. It’s already used for lunch clubs and social groups.

“It feels like someone has got this idea in their head about the cafe and they are determined that it happens irrespective of what people think.”

Mr Hardingham stressed that the proposals are at a very early stage.

“We are still discussing it as a congregation. We will listen to different opinions because we need a consensus.”

“Our church should not appear to be a dead, ancient monument but should be a place of life, forming the centre of our local community.

"It should not only be used for our worship, but also as a venue for the us to engage with our community.”