AN action group hoping to turn a neglected chapel into a community cafe is drafting a business plan to secure its future.

The group, Friends of the Chapel in North Cemetery, is trying to save the North Cemetery chapel building after its owners Darlington Borough Council declared it “surplus” and considered selling it.

The group hopes to renovate the building and open it as a community cafe, possibly offering courses such as family history research, art and flower arranging.

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Volunteers and Friends members recently carried out a clean-up operation where they removed 15 bag-fulls of rubbish and gutter debris from the site.

Part of the dilapidated roof was also fixed by the council and the secretary of the Friends, Coun Anne-Marie Curry, is pleased with the progress made since the campaign started in September.

She said: “It is going in the right direction.

“Once we have got our business plan together we will then get the chapel registered as a community asset so another group could come in and save it if it all goes pear-shaped – not that we expect it to go pear-shaped because we have plenty of enthusiasm and support on this.”

Coun Curry hopes that if the Friends can come up with a viable business plan, the council would agree to let the building out in a similar way that some council-owned allotments have been leased to community associations instead of being sold off.

A council spokeswoman confirmed that the authority is no longer looking to sell the building and is working with the Friends group.