AMBITIOUS plans have been drawn up for the future of St Cuthbert's Church in the heart of Darlington.

The church, a grade one listed building that dates back to 1183, could be transformed into a community hub equipped to meet the needs of modern society.

The church is in desperate need of renovation, according to its supporters.

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Its roof, made largely from 13th century timber, requires repairs estimated at costing about £90,000, while its dated heating system is described as prohibitively expensive to run. There are no toilets on site, the floor is in poor condition and disabled access is sorely lacking.

However, its loyal congregation is determined to bring the building into the 21st Century and secure its place at the heart of the local community for the forseeable future.

In preparation for bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund, plans to regenerate St Cuthbert’s are currently being developed with renowned architect Ulrike Knox.

At the centre of the plans lies a vision to see the church become a vibrant centre for heritage, arts and education that remains firmly based around its role as a place of worship.

Paul Gimore, a member of the parochial church council, said: “We want to keep the church the place of worship it has always been but bring the building up to modern standards and have it play more of a major part in the life of Darlington.

“We want to see it become a place of heritage where people can come and learn more about its story.

“The whole area is changing and we want to change with it by hosting more events, putting on more exhibitions and having longer opening hours.”

He added: “This is not about reordering and repair but breathing new life into a historically and socially vital building. A living place, not a museum.”

Darlington residents are invited to have their say on development plans at an open day set to take place at the church on Saturday, March 1.

The event, which begins with refreshments at 9.45am and runs until 12.30pm, will allow people to suggest ideas and help shape plans for the future of the church.