RESIDENTS are celebrating the completion of a new £52,000 floodlit venue for community events.

In only 12 weeks, derelict land at the side of Ernest Street Baptist Chapel, in Church, has been transformed into a community space and car park, complete with a mural thanks to the efforts of youngsters in the area.

The project is part of the Action Pact initiative, overseen by environmental group Groundwork. It was granted £1million in February to develop projects around Hyndburn over three years. The land will be used for community events and activities.

Members of the church congregation collected £4,000 for the work through a series of fundraising events.

The £1million pot included contributions from Lancashire County Council and the Single Regeneration Budget, via the North West Development Agency.

More than 100 children, from the 1st Church Girls' and Boys' Brigades, Sacred Heart RC Primary School, and worshippers from the church, were involved in painting a huge mural -- measuring 17 metres wide and two metres high -- on the side wall of the chapel under the guidance of Todmorden artist Sean Creagh.

The site will be officially opened next week, and a programme of entertainment has been organised to mark the event, including dance performances by the Ossy Cloggers, two music groups and a magician.

There will also be representatives of all those involved in the project, including the landscape architects.

Beccy Smith, project officer for Groundwork, said: "It was just derelict land, unusable and unsightly on such a busy road. Now it's brought the building to life.

"Residents have been in touch and thanked us for improving their outlook. Before, they were looking out on derelict wasteland."

Peter Pilkington, treasurer and deacon of the church, said the improvements were part of an ongoing package of refurbishment at the church, which started seven years ago and is 75 per cent complete.

Some £90,000 has already been spent on internal alterations, with another £50,000 to raise by the end of next year to create another level for use by community groups.

"It's been fairly slow, but we have had to raise the money as we went along, but we can see the end in sight now. The outside makes a big difference, but it also gives us a big impetus to get it finished," he said.

Improvements so far carried out include new seating, meeting rooms, toilets and kitchen.

The opening will be from 2pm to 4.30pm on Saturday, May 10.