THE Prime Minister has welcomed the start of work to transform a former Methodist chapel into much-needed affordable housing in a Yorkshire Dales village.

The Upper Dales Community Land Trust (UDCLT) chose North-East social housing provider, North Star, as its partner to drive forward the conversion of the empty building in Bainbridge, near Leyburn.

And Rishi Sunak timed a visit to his Richmondshire constituency to be part of the celebration of the start on site that will lead to a pair of affordable two-bedroom flats being available to rent for local people.

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak at the celebration to mark the start of the chapel conversion in Bainbridge

The Prime Minister said: “The chapel is an important part of Bainbridge’s history, and it is wonderful that a new use has been found for the building – a use that will help provide much-needed affordable accommodation in the heart of the community.”

The UDCLT – a volunteer-led trust with a mission to provide affordable housing for local people living and working in the remote Upper Dales – bought Bainbridge Methodist Chapel in November 2021.

As the trust’s chosen partner, North Star has taken out a long lease on the historic building and will oversee the conversion work before managing the new homes.

Stephen Stubbs, the UDCLT chair and founder, said: “We are very pleased to have now formalised our partnership with North Star, which has been working extremely hard behind the scenes to bring us all to this juncture.”

Emma Speight, Executive Director of Assets and Growth at North Star, added: “One of North Star’s strengths is being able to work in partnerships to develop smaller, bespoke, affordable housing.

“Being able to do this in such a fantastic rural location, where there is great demand for affordable rented homes, is really rewarding and exciting. It’s taken a lot of hard work and commitment from all concerned to get to this stage, and I’m looking forward to seeing the building brought back to life.”

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Mr Stubbs said it was also “great news” to have secured the services of Richmond-based company, Randall Orchard Construction Ltd, to carry out the works.

The firm’s Managing Director, Graeme Newton, said: “We will hope to produce a lovely, sympathetic conversion to provide much-needed affordable housing in Wensleydale, and make use of such a landmark building in the village.”

Funding for the project has been provided by the UDCLT, using grants from the former Richmondshire District Council; North Star Housing; and Homes England, the Government’s housing and regeneration agency.