The first new diocese in the Church of England for 85 years came into being yesterday as three dioceses, including Bradford, were merged.

The Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales is the largest in the country running from Barnsely in the south, through West and North Yorkshire, to parts of County Durham in the north, covering 656 churches in an area of 2,425 square miles.

Its new acting Bishop, the former Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines (pictured), yesterday laid down his pastoral staff on the altar of Bradford Cathedral at a special Easter Day service. In a pastoral letter read out in Anglican churches across the new diocese, he made a call for change. “We’ve been given a unique opportunity to look afresh at what we do and why we do it, at who we are and for whom we exist,” he said. The diocese will be made up of five areas: Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ripon and Wakefield.