A NEW facility for youths in Church took a step closer to reality today after county council bosses made more money available for a play area scheme.

The play area, to be built on a derelict field at Dill Hall Estate, is still at the planning stage but could include all weather pitches, a shelter and BMX track.

Lancashire County Council has agreed to provide a further £6,500 for the Safe Space Safe Place project taking the overall funding to £26,000.

The money will be used to keep full-time youth worker Steve Southward in Church to oversee the development and bring the plans to fruition.

A playground manufacturer from Cumbria is drawing up plans and the youth worker will use these to get funding from a variety of sources including the Lottery Fund and Community Chest. Mr Southward is also looking at developing another piece of derelict land off Church Street, in Church Kirk.

LCC's project will also kick start a number of other schemes including a half-pipe skate ramp in Rishton and a shelter in Oswaldtwistle, near Harvey Street.

The scheme, which is part-funded by the Crime and Disorder budget, has already seen the construction of a shelter in Mercer Park, Clayton-le-Moors, which has had an immediate impact -- the cost of vandalism in the park has fallen from £18,500 to £250 a year and stopped all nuisance calls.

Barry Emmet, Hyndburn area manager for LCC, said: "We've been working with the Church Central Residents' Association on youth provision and working towards this for some time. The area does not have a lot for youngsters the nearest things are Oswaldtwistle Youth Centre or the New Era Centre, in Accrington, and both are quite a trip.

"It will be off Queens Road West and Meadoway and we will provide facilities for young people along the lines of a BMX track, a youth shelter and all weather play area."

Mr Southward said: "The money will keep me in my position to see the development of this play area and perhaps another in Church Kirk.

"We are at the planning stage at the moment, in fact we have a company called Play Dale, from Ulverston, Cumbria, coming up to draw up some ground plans."

Barbara Cliffe, of the Church Central Residents' Association, said: "We have been wanting to develop the Dill Hall playing field for a number of years now.

"It is house-locked and perfectly safe in regards to traffic and it would be somewhere for youths to go and keep them off the streets. It would be an ideal place and the residents are quite happy about this."

Coun David Myles, LCC's portfolio holder for leisure and culture, said: "This is good news. We have a youth shelter in Mercer Park and this has reduced petty crime and vandalism by more than 80 per cent."

Sergeant Bob Eaton said: "If play areas are carefully sited in consultation with the local community they are excellent ideas, but they should be built as a reward for good behaviour and not as an appeasement for bad."