A GROUP campaigning to buy a church and transform it into a new cultural centre has secured a government grant. 

The money is from the Community Ownership Fund (COF) which is supported by the Department for Levelling Up and £250k of the funding will go towards the purchase of Otley Methodist Church, with the remaining £50k covering salaries during the first year of ownership.

The new community hub will be known as Otley Common.

The project is run by the Friends of The Wesley Otley Limited (FOTWOL), a Community Benefit Society, formed and run by Otley residents.

They are hoping to raise the remainder of the money to purchase and refurbish the church through a community share offer.

This will give local people the chance to invest in the project and share in its success by receiving interest down the line.

The share offer will be launched in May and will include a series of open days and events at the church to raise awareness of the project.

The ambition is to bring the town together by providing accessible spaces for community groups to meet, as well as studios and co-working space for local businesses and entrepreneurs, a dedicated youth space designed to cater for neurodiversity and a venue for the arts.

A significant part of the project is to decarbonise Otley Common, reducing the building’s reliance on gas and increasing the building’s thermal efficiency through the installation of insulation, secondary glazing, and energy-efficient light fittings.

FOTWOL’s Clare Smith said: “We are delighted to have received the COF grant as it will help to purchase and renovate the building for the benefit of the town.

"We are working with a dedicated and skilled team, including Otley 2030 and Stead & Co. Architects.

"We will be launching the share offer in the next month, and inviting everyone to share in Otley Common’s vision.”

The Otley Common team is always looking for more volunteers to help with various roles. This could be project planning, joining the board of trustees, legal, administrative, decorating, renovations, delivering leaflets and many more roles.

For more information, please visit www.otleycommon.org.

You can also get in touch via email hello@otleycommon.org

The Rev Cameron Stirk said: “Otley Methodist Church are thrilled that Otley Common are moving forward in securing the purchase of the church premises.

"The church believes that Otley Common will continue to use the building as a place of meeting, engendering strong community links and providing a welcome for all and wholeheartedly wishes them well as they continue to fulfil the vision and hopes that many have invested in the building over many years.”