THE leaders of a Christian fellowship have launched a bid to create the first new church in a town for decades.

Northallerton Community Christian Centre has applied for permission from Hambleton District Council to convert a building in Romanby Road, Northallerton, which has been used as a gymnasium and fitness centre for groups with up to 150 members since the 1990s.

The group, which will be led by Pastor Brendan Nnadi, of Sunderland, said it wanted to convert Church House to being a building for religious activities, as it was built for in 1928.

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Planning agents for the fellowship said in addition to Sunday worship and a Sunday school, there would be prayer meetings during the week.

The size of the congregation remains unknown as the fellowship has been founded recently.

It is also planned to provide a free weekly breakfast to those in need and drop-in support with associated charity work.

The fellowship hopes to create a ground floor worship hall, convert changing rooms into a kitchen and toilets, while transforming the first floor equipment room into a prayer and meeting room and the tanning and exercise rooms into an office, store and toilet.

A spokesman said a ramp would be built at a side entrance to ensure disabled access.

The agent said a succession of tenants had repeatedly struggled to run businesses at the building, which has been used as a bodybuilding studio and for activities ranging from boxing and martial arts to aerobics.

He said: "It is acknowledged that the building does not have adequate off-road parking.

"However, the building is close to potential users and within comfortable walking distance of the Applegarth car park, and unlike the previous users of the gymnasium, the church will be able to exert considerable influence over its membership in using these public parking facilities to ensure minimum inconvenience to local residents."

"The building also has a run-down internal appearance and the changing facilities are considered to be sub-standard.

Northallerton councillor David Blades said if the application was approved, it would see the be the first church group to have moved in the area since the New Life Baptist Church relocated from Valley Road to the town's former Lyric Cinema and Bingo Club, in the High Street, in 1997.

It is understood it is several decades since a new church was created in the town.

Fellow Northallerton councillor Ken Billings welcomed the move to use the building, adding that it was in a prominent location and was becoming an eyesore.