A MASSIVE retail development will mean the end of an era for a church in Middlesbrough.

Up to 450 jobs could be created if the joint application for new shops and offices gets the go-ahead from Middlesbrough Council.

But with work expected to start on the development next year, St Patrick's RC Church, Cannon Street, could be demolished before winter.

Built in 1901 to serve the local Roman Catholic community, it now stands as one of the last remnants of a once thriving area of Middlesbrough.

The Bishop of Middlesbrough, the Right Reverend John Crawley, said: "This is a sad moment for the people who hold St Patrick's in great affection.

"However, it is right that the church, which in many ways has been a people's church built with pennies from the poor, should now give way to a scheme to provide new employment opportunities - a great priority for Middlesbrough."

As well as the demolition of St Patrick's, the proposals will also see the relocation of the fruit market, police vehicle workshops and council trading standards departments.

Dr Jim Whiston, financial secretary of the Diocese of Middlesbrough, said: "I remember my mother saying how my granny and many others had worked so hard to raise money to build St Patrick's.

"But I am sure they would be proud to think that now life has moved on and other parishes will benefit from the sale of St Patrick's."

St James Securities, of Leeds - jointly with Tesco and Barker and Stonehouse - has got together with local businesses to submit a planning application in the coming weeks.

Father Derek Turnham, priest of St Patrick's, wants the church to avoid the fate of Middlesbrough Cathedral, which fell into disrepair before being torched by vandals.

He said: "I was dreading this announcement because I know how sad people will be, but you cannot argue with the fact that the developments in the Newport area in the 1960s and 70s have left the church isolated from the community in an industrial estate.

"It is important it has a dignified end."