"BITTERSWEET" plans to turn a former school into a community centre are expected to be approved next week.

Sherburn Hill School closed last March and has been empty since but members of the community are now hoping to take over the building to turn it into a community centre, to replace one that closed in 2012.

Durham County Council will be considering the plan to transfer the building to Sherburn Hill Hub (SHH), which has been trying to open a community centre in the village, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Councillor David Hall, who is part of SHH, said: "It's been a long journey.

"It's bittersweet because of the loss of the school but it gives control to the community over the future of the centre. It will be really positive for the village."

The Northern Echo:

Sherburn Hill Community Centre, pictured following its closure in 2012

He added: "The residents of Sherburn Hill have some up with lots of ideas so I think what will happen is if the decision goes through, we will be asking people about what they want to see first."

Wendy Martin, from the group, added: "We are excited at the prospect of turning the primary school site into a community centre, as this will be a fantastic resource for Sherburn Hill and the wider community.

"There is strong local support, and lots of people are keen to volunteer. It will be a great opportunity to bring people together."

"We have worked hard over the last year or so to put together a business plan to make sure it will be viable and sustainable, and we have been very grateful for the support we have received from Durham Area Action Partnership, our county councillors, and other local groups."

The village has been without a community centre since 2012, when the old building closed amid safety concerns.

SHH had been trying to secure a new build centre but when the school closed started work with the council to create a new business plan.

The authority is proposing to charge a peppercorn rent and says it will invest up to £400,000 from a fund previously ring fenced for Sherburn Hill to refurbish the building.

It is hoped the centre would be able to offer activities, including toddler groups, fitness classes and a youth group, including sessions for children with special educational needs, as well as open a cafe.

Cabinet member Brian Stephens said: “We are delighted to be in a position to potentially offer the former school building to the residents of Sherburn Hill as a focal point for the community.

“We know the important role vibrant community facilities can play in helping to maintain strong towns and villages and are conscious that the closure of the former Sherburn Hill centre in 2012 has been a significant loss to the area.

“We hope the peppercorn rent and financial support we are potentially offering would enable this project to flourish.”