AN OTLEY church’s work to create a new base in the town centre is nearing completion.

Bethel Church bought the former James Barber Tobacconist and Artamis Gifts properties, on Westgate, back in March - just before the first national coronavirus lockdown.

Since then the church, which has previously met at a number of different rented premises in Otley, has been holding its services online.

Work on converting its new home, however - which will have a community hub as well as religious role - has continued apace behind the scenes.

The project has involved working with local firms to restore and convert the Westgate property, which has just been fitted with new internal and external glazing.

The Bethel Church Leader managing the scheme, Mike Dennis, said: “Heritage and modernity have come together as a significant stage in the restoration and conversion of the old Barbers/Artamis building has been reached.

“The internal glazing is intended to ensure that whilst the main community hall is in use sound does not travel to and from the lobby, which can be used both for welcoming and for breakout activities.

“The church itself is looking forward to singing again and the new glazed doors will allow this to happen while the lobby is used as a breakout space.

“Upstairs, which will be used for the church office, library and teaching rooms, the original three cottages which still form the church frontage are more obvious.

“Two of the cottage windows have been replaced with replica sash windows to ensure that the building regains some of its original appearance.”

Before buying numbers 20 to 24 Westgate the church considered submitted detailed plans to Leeds City Council in case any of the proposed changes were likely to clash with the property’s Listed Building status.

That actually led to the opportunity to put right some historical problems - including inappropriate windows that had been installed before Mr Barber took over the shop - which the church was happy to do.

Mr Dennis said: “The current works were a great chance to put that right.

“Being in a Conservation Area, no UPVC materials are permitted and so bespoke wooden frames were commissioned from local Bramley joiner, Wayne Best.

“There are many fine buildings in Otley and it is a pleasure to help secure the future of these cottages with a bit of loving care.”

The finished church will have new toilets and modern catering facilities. The Bethel Church had initially hoped to move in this autumn, but the Covid-19 pandemic pushed the work back. Members of the public will be invited in to have a look around once the project is finished.