A HISTORIC church is hoping its future can be safeguarded if plans for a new chapel of its own are given the green light.

The Idle Upper Chapel United Reform Church, which dates back to the mid-17th century, has submitted plans for a new chapel following an "extremely difficult" 15 years.

The church made the decision to sell its old Westfield Lane building in Idle back in 2013, but now it's hoped a new building, on land south of the road, could herald a new dawn.

Documents submitted with the application say: "During 2013, the church made the very difficult decision to sell the existing church buildings as the condition of these buildings was deteriorating so much they were becoming a serious liability.

"Fortunately, all the buildings were sold very quickly and an arrangement was reached with Footsteps Theatre School, who purchased the church buildings, to allow the members of Upper Chapel to continue to worship in the building on a Sunday for which we are extremely grateful."

It adds: "However, we are very sadly, unable in these premises to hold weddings, baptisms and funerals, three of the main core roles we should be able to offer."

The application reveals that the congregation currently consists of 13 members, aged between 60 and 90 plus. Four have been part of the church all their lives.

It says: "There is a strong commitment to the fellowship by all the members and a determination that it continues and that it has a building of its own."

The church says it wants the new building to reflect the "peaceful atmosphere" of the old chapel, while also letting those outside the church know it's a "forward-looking church with an ambitious commitment to the future".

"The emphasis of the new building for the church family will essentially be the provision of a place of worship and spiritual exploration with a welcoming environment for weddings, baptisms and funeral services to meet the needs of the local community," the application says.

"However, we need to be mindful that we do not overstretch our human resources but to make full use of a new building we will therefore need to allow groups and organisations from outside the church to make use of the building."

To this end, the church says it has been in touch with organisations, councillors and schools in the area to see if there is a need for the rooms it could offer.

The application says: "We have been pleasantly surprised at the feedback and interest we have received and feel there is great potential for these groups to contribute towards making the building a place of holistic wellbeing."

A small cafe on the ground floor is also included in the church's vision. A green burial site and a dedicated area for children's graves are also being investigated in the longer term.

The application says: "The last fifteen years have been an extremely difficult time for the members of Upper Chapel with the constant worry about the buildings and the

very future of the fellowship. We have had many disappointments, setbacks and a mountain of frustrations to face."

It adds: "The energy and effort needed to get this far has been exhausting and a great distraction from being ‘a church’. But we have persevered in our determination to keep the fellowship together and continue to be a presence in the area. We have a great deal of history, but we also feel we have the potential for a great deal in the future."