Group could put in bid to save Lancs church for community

Shawforth Methodist Church
-Credit: (Image: Alan Neal/LDRS)

Rossendale residents, councillors and a church leader attended a public meeting this week to discuss whether a chapel building in Shawforth can be bought by the community and developed for a range of activities in future. Shawforth Methodist Church is earmarked to close this August as a place of worship and then to be sold.

But campaigners want to buy it, probably using a not-for-profit community interest company. A mums and toddlers group meets there and it has the capacity for other uses too, say campaigners. And they say financial grants gained to improve the building in recent years along with voluntary work done by local people can be included as factors in demonstrating local commitment in a potential bid to buy the building.

Last year’s community transfer of Whitworth Leisure Centre, which includes a swimming pool, has been held up as a symbol of what can be achieved. That involved rossendale-council>Rossendale Council, Whitworth Town Council and a new community interest company. But campaigners say the community must get involved again around Shawforth, to demonstrate interest in buying that building local use. The building is currently owned by the Methodist Church while some land there is owned by Rossendale Coucil, it is understood.

A public meeting was held at the Shawforth chapel on Monday night (June 17) and the leader of the Rossendale Methodist Circuit has confirmed the Shawforth chapel will hold its last service at the end of August. The Rev David Burrows, Superintendent Minister for the Rossendale Circuit, said: “I’m afraid the chapel at Shawforth will not be open for worship after the end of August. It is sad that after so many years of regular worship at Shawforth the time has now come to cease.

“The Methodist Church in Rossendale can no longer meet the costs of running the building and the small congregation no longer has the capacity to raise the necessary funds. The building now becomes the responsibility of Rossendale Methodist Circuit, where the members are the charity trustees.” The buy-out campaign is being championed by Community First Coun Alan Neal.

Speaking after week’s public meeting, he said: “We had about 46 local resident plus Mr Burrows. He outlined the current position with regards to the trustees of the Rossendale Methodists who are facing a number of difficulties due to falling numbers in the wider congregations across Rossendale. It was a good meeting. I think we all now have a better understanding of the situation faced by the local Methodists and also some of options and ideas for the future.” Also there were six members of Whitworth Town Council including the mayor and mayoress, Gareth and Ness Baron, along with the county councillor Conservative Scott Smith. The mayor and others outlined a number of ways of moving forward, Coun Neal said.

He added: “The preferred option would be to set up a community interest company, with a view of appointing people to the roles of a chairperson, secretary and a group of trustees. I urged people to get involved and emphasised what has already been invested in the building. It has had £150,000 in funds for improvements and hours of people’s labour. These are important because they show real commitment to the building, which will be valuable for a community bid and perhaps other types of match-funding.” It was agreed to hold the next public meeting on Monday, July 15, at the chapel, starting at 7pm.