A FORMER dales school will soon reopen as a community centre for people living in one of the most isolated parts of County Durham.

Carlbeck Community Centre in Lunedale, Upper Teesdale, was formerly a school built in the 1850s. It will be developed with eco-friendly features, thanks to a grant of more than £150,000.

At its height, Carlbeck School had about 70 pupils from farms in Upper Teesdale, but when the building shut in 1958, there were only 11 pupils on the register.

The Barnard Castle branch of the YMCA converted the building into an outdoor centre in the 1970s. After the YMCA stopped using it, it was leased by Longfield School in Darlington for the same purpose and used until the late 1990s, after which it fell into disuse.

A group of residents established Lunedale Community Association, which was given control of the building by Lord Strathmore in 2006.

The association has secured a grant of £152,094 from the Big Lottery Fund and £15,500 from the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The money is being spent on replacing the roof, ceilings and floor.

Walls will be insulated with fleeces and a small wind turbine will help power a ground source heat pump.

Margaret Dent, a member of Lunedale Community Association, was one of the last pupils at the school in 1958.

She said: “We were able to have some activities in the old hall, but it was not really fit for purpose. There was no functioning kitchen and the toilets were outside. It was very basic and in need of some refurbishment.

“We are putting a big emphasis on green, renewable power and are trying to make it as energy efficient as possible.”

Durham county councillor Richard Bell, who lives in Middleton and visited the premises at Easter, said: “I’m looking forward to the centre being restored because there are quite a lot of families and homes in Lunedale, so there is certainly a population for it to serve.

“It is small, but big enough to hold a wide range of activities, so I hope it will become a very valuable asset.”

The centre should be completed by early autumn.