A FIRE-RAVAGED place of worship could be demolished to make way for a community church as part of a £1m regeneration project.
Fire swept through the former church in Union Street, Darlington, in April 2012, when the building was occupied by Fisher Carpets.
Now leaders of nearby Northgate United Reformed Church have announced plans to knock down the Union Street building and replace it with a new facility.
The Northern Echo understands a car park could be built on the site of the Union Street building in the short-term, although artist’s impressions have been released showing how a future community church there could look.
With no opposition from church members, the plans are set to press ahead with the NURC salvaging the best features fromand re-use them in the new building.
Plans for the Union Street site include shops and a community centre, while a church and chapel would occupy the upper storeys.
This follows a trend of building churches as multi-use buildings which are ‘eco-friendly’ and have a low carbon footprint.
There has been a church on the Union Street site for more than 150 years.
Bethel Church, built in 1812, was demolished in 1862 to make way for a new Gothic-style building housing the church until 1975.
Northgate United Reformed Church is also 150 years old.
In 1867, land in Northgate was purchased for £750 from John Pease and a St. George's Church built.
This housed the Presbyterian Church until 1975 and now houses the Northgate United Reformed Church after Darlington's Union Street Congregational Church joined up with St.George's Presbyterian Church and the former Union Street church closed.
Clive Davies, secretary of Northgate United Reformed Church, said: “We’ll be very sad to say goodbye to the church.
“It is magnificent, but costly and unsuitable for a church wanting to be more involved with the community.
“Many tears will be shed should the congregations move, but the intention would be to find another use for the Northgate building and options are being thought about.
“There is no commitment for the Northgate congregation to move and occupy the new building, but this is clearly a strong possibility."
Church members are currently being consulted on the plans.
Mr Davies said a public consultation would follow when a planning application was submitted, although this would be many months away.