A Rossendale community which saved Whitworth’s swimming pool is now being asked to help save a church building,to keep it for local use including a mums-and-toddlers group.

People around Whitworth and Shawforth are being asked to support a new campaign to buy the Shawforth Methodist Church building as a community asset.

Community First Councillor Alan Neal, who represents Whitworth on Rossendale Council, says the building is earmarked for sale by the Methodist Church in August, apparently owing to falling attendances.

But, he says it serves people from Rossendale and Rochdale and should be saved for the future. He has called a public meeting for Monday, June 17, to buy the chapel through a not-for-profit community interest company.

He understands the building is owned by the Methodist Church while a plot of land there is owned by Rossendale Council.

Shawforth Methodist ChurchShawforth Methodist Church

He also understands the site is subject to a legal covenant which may restrict its uses, but he fears it could be lost to the community and redeveloped.

Cllr Neal said: "I was recently made aware that Methodist Church trustees in Rossendale want to close this building, which is a local community hub.

"For example, it is used by mums with pre-school children, by Whitworth Community Choir and a local model aircraft club. It is also available for family and children’s parties, and for coffee mornings where local residents meet.

“If they sell the building, where will those people go? There’s no other community building in Shawforth. Also a defibrillator is stored there for people who suffer heart attacks. Where will that go?

"What’s the view of the North West Ambulance Service? There are also opportunities to use the building for extra activities in future, such as for health, mental health or education. Young and old people needs places to meet.

Whitworth Leisure Centre was saved by the community and Cllr Neal wants the same to happen againWhitworth Leisure Centre was saved by the community and Cllr Neal wants the same to happen again

“This is the people’s opportunity to save the only community hub and family centre in Shawforth, Our community needs this now more than ever before.

"We saved Whitworth Leisure Centre last year and I think people will want to do the same now with Shawforth Methodist Church.

“But we’ve only got a few weeks this summer to submit a community interest bid. It must be done soon. So I urge people to attend the public meeting on Monday,”

The Methodist Church in Rossendale has other chapels at Rawtenstall, Crawshawbooth, Irwell Vale, Bacup and Stacksteads. Cllr Neal said he has has spoken to two local Methodist representatives including Rev David Burrow, the superintendent minister for the Rossendale Circuit.

Cllr Neal added: “In conversations, they said there is no choice but to sell, that I can’t do anything about the sale. Their obligation is to get the best outcome for trustees.

“But I replied, yes, I can do something. I suggested the church’s obligation should be to get the best outcome for the community. There are funding sources out there. So I’m aiming to get a community interest company set up to buy the building and save it as a community asset.

“Once it ceases to be classed as a church, its status will change and it could become liable for business rates. But under a community interest company, it could be precluded from paying business rates.”

The public meeting on Monday starts at 7pm at Shawforth Methodist Church, in Market Street.

The Methodist Church in Rossendale and its national office have been contacted for comment.

Sunday morning services at the church have been held weekly at 10.30am, but the final one could be at the end of August, it is understood.

Whitworth Town Council had a role in the transfer of Whitworth Leisure Centre from Rossendale Council to a community interest company last year. Cllr Neal has asked if the Whitworth mayor would host Monday’s public meeting.