THE Diocese of Blackburn is set to increase by 12 parishes under radical re-ordering proposals.

The Diocese Commission, which organises the structure of the Church of England, has recommended that four parishes in Pendle and eight in the Ribble Valley – currently in Bradford Diocese – transfer to Blackburn.

Parishes proposed to change are Slaidburn, Tosside, Hurst Green, Mitton, Waddington, Grindleton, Bolton-by-Bowland, Gisburn, Bracewell, Barnoldswick, Earby and Kelbrook.

Church bosses say the move is to ‘tidy up’ the boundaries of Yorkshire and Lancashire, which have changed due to political reasons.

The plans have been seen as controversial by some parishes in the Skipton Deanery, as residents feel more aligned to Yorkshire than Lancashire.

However, the report states: “Some of the evidence that we received acknowledged that most of the eight Lancashire parishes in the Bowland Deanery relate more to neighbouring parts of Lancashire than Yorkshire.”

All but one of those churches was closer to Clitheroe than Skipton or Settle, and were closer to Blackburn Cathedral than Bradford.

The report also states that there are concerns that the Blackburn Diocese has a ‘more Catholic ethos than the Diocese of Bradford’, and that there were indications that some individuals would resist their parishes being transferred to a diocese in which two of the current bishops oppose women priests.

The Blackburn Diocese was founded in 1926 by the then Bishop of Manchester, William Temple, who was concerned to emphasise Christian pastoral support for the expanding cotton towns.

Recommendations must be debated by the Bradford and Blackburn diocesan synods, and other Yorkshire dioceses facing change, before any scheme can be submitted to the General Synod, the Church of England's 'parliament'.

This is unlikely to be before July 2013.