A DEVELOPER is planning to transform one of the borough’s most historic churches into an ‘exciting’ new community space for young people.

Nabeel Mussarat says redeveloping St James Church in New Bury, Farnworth, which closed in 2011 but is still owned by the Church of England, forms part of a wider plan to establish a network of community hubs across the city region.

This will potentially see the grade II listed church used as a space for young people to take part in entertainment and extra-curriculum educational activities.

Mr Mussarat said: “The planning permission we are aiming to get for these churches offers an exciting opportunity overall to really give something back to the community and offer some exciting new events and activities to occupy young people in the area.

“It is important to retain the characteristics of the churches themselves, so by using them as community hubs I believe that we can accomplish that.”

As well as St James Church, Mr Mussarat also plans to develop three others in Godley, Rochdale and Heywood.

All of the churches have similar histories but, according to Mr Mussarat, will have to be approached in different ways depending on their respective local council building control standpoints.

Key to his plans is ensuring each of the 19th century buildings retains their distinctive characters.

This means the designation of St James Church and the others will need to be changed through the planning process from places of worship to community centres.

Mr Mussarat believes this would “replicate the sense of togetherness the churches may have had in their heyday.”

He hopes this will also help to rejuvenate the wider area in and around Farnworth.

The sale of the church will be made subject to a public consultation on what would serve the community best.