AN OLD chapel could be brought back into use following a clear-up project to enable a County Durham man to bury his mother next to her late husband.

No one had been buried at St Nicholas’ Church, in Providence Row, Durham, for more than 30 years.

But work to clear up the overgrown church yard started after Alan Pepper, from Carrville, on the outskirts of the city, made an enquiry about burying his mother, Edith, there.

Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company (DTV CRC) and Durham County Council started the work last September, following the death of the 102-year-old, to enable her to be buried next to her husband James William Pepper.

Mr Pepper, said: “The participants were absolutely brilliant, I can’t thank them enough. You couldn’t see the path leading up to the church as it was so overgrown but now, they have completely transformed the place.

“On behalf of myself and the family, we appreciate the work DTV CRC and the council have done to enable my mother’s burial to take place.”

Since the funeral in September, work has continued to clear the area and is ongoing to keep it tidy.

The Greek Orthodox Church is now hoping to take over the church and is trying to raise £160,000 to bring the building back into a usable condition.

Panos Korovessis, from the Greek Orthodox church in Newcastle, said: “This lovely building was left to ruin and disused so we made enquiries to acquire it, pay for its restoration and use it as our Orthodox Christian chapel.

“We’re hoping to raise £160,000 to pay towards these costs and are working alongside Durham County Council’s planning department. DTV CRC has done a magnificent job by clearing the whole park and making it accessible again.”

A team of 145 offenders, who had to carry out unpaid community work as part of their sentences, were involved, spending 1,250 hours over 36 days to clear away shrub areas, self-seeded trees and brambles.

Martin Briscoe from Durham County Council, said: “DTV and the unpaid work team has done a fantastic job. We’ve formed a really good relationship and worked with them for a number of years on smaller projects, but this is by far the biggest project we’ve delivered together. A lot has been achieved in a short space of time and demonstrates what can be gained by working in partnership.”

Ken Hounam, unpaid work manager at DTV CRC, said: “When Mr Pepper contacted us and told us about his mother’s wish to be buried at the cemetery, we immediately contacted the council and arranged for a team of participants to attend the site.

“It was a huge effort from the team, working in partnership with Durham County Council but we are very proud that our efforts have been recognised.”

Unpaid work provides a structured programme and route for men and women to re-pay the community for the crimes they have committed and works in partnership with local authorities, community groups, charities and sports clubs.

Members of the public can recommend other projects via the DTV CRC website.