THREE line dancing couples known as The Holistics have helped a planned North-East complementary health centre move a step closer to reality.

Cash raised by the dancers at weekly dancing sessions in Middlesbrough have helped to raise the £500,000 needed to pay for the holistic cancer centre, which is being built in the grounds of South Cleveland Hospital.

While the target has been hit, fundraising will continue to raise the £150,000-a-year it will cost to run the centre.

It was a chance meeting at the Dorman social club which led to three years of fundraising for the Holistic Cancer Care project.

Yesterday, the three couples handed over a cheque for £12,000, bringing the total they have raised at the line-dancing sessions to £30,000.

At a ceremony on the site, cancer specialist Dr Peter Dunlop said to the dancers: "I just want to express how grateful we are. Without your enthusiasm we would have got nowhere."

The centre could be open as early as the summer of 2002, providing cancer patients with a peaceful haven where they can receive complementary therapy such aromatherapy, acupuncture and reflexology.

While similar schemes exist elsewhere, the Middlesbrough scheme will be more integrated with conventional NHS cancer treatment.

Dr Dunlop, who is in charge of South Cleveland's high-tech radiotherapy unit, believes partnership between NHS services and complementary therapies is the way forward.

He said: "We already have staff who are trained in complementary therapies. We will need a lot more when the centre opens."

The idea that line dancing could make money for the project came from former South Cleveland technician Arthur Foreman.

Mr Foreman, 74, held the first line dancing sessions at the Dorman club, in Oxford Road, Middlesbrough.

But it was when the three couples - Alan and Nita Metcalfe, Dave and Madge Glazebrook, and Eric and Rita Griffiths - got involved that the fundraising really took off.

The idea of raising cash for the cancer unit was particularly attractive to Rita Griffiths, from Acklam.

She said: "My daughter was being treated for cancer at the time. The treatment she received at South Cleveland was wonderful, and it seemed such a good cause."

Dr Dunlop, who sits on Prince Charles's committee on integrated medicine, hopes the Prince of Wales will perform the opening ceremony