A £1m scheme to convert a redundant village church into a hostel for walkers and cyclists to help support the local community has been given over £650,000 in grants to help with the work.

Richmond MP and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met local people at the former village church of St Michael's and All Angels Church in Hudswell, near Richmond, to hear about the ambitious plans.

The church, which was built in 1884, is being made into a hostel for visitors, with up to 18 beds for cyclists and walkers, a residents' lounge and meeting room with a kitchen. 

A grant of £250,000 has been made from the Community Ownership Fund with a further £400,000 from the Government's Shared Prosperity Fund.

Mr Sunak has been supporting the scheme after the Hudswell Community Charity sent him details of their business plan for the conversion and invited him to the church to hear for himself how the plan will benefit the local area.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Richmond MP Rishi meets with members of the Hudswell Community group

He said: "St Michael’s is a much-loved church and this project will preserve the heritage of the listed building and give it a new role as a tourist facility, helping to bring more visitors to the Richmond area.

"This new accommodation aimed at walkers and cyclists will also help to sustain the village’s community-owned pub.

"The charity has worked very hard on this and I’m delighted to have helped them secure this funding. When I met the team at the church, I was impressed by their plan and I am delighted that they have been successful."

Martin Booth, secretary of the Hudswell Community Charity, said the successful Community Ownership Fund application had made the difference in ensuring the project could go ahead.

He added: "We still have a bit more fundraising to do but we are confident enough to start work on parts of the project with the aim of completing the conversion works by the end of the year."

Planning consent has been granted for the conversion and the purchase of the building from the Church Commissioners for £20,000 has been agreed.

Grants have also been sourced from a variety of sources including the Yorkshire Dales National Park and, most recently, the Bernard Sunley Foundation.