PLANNING authorities have given their blessing for an extensive £160,000 refurbishment of St John's United Church in Cononley.

The joint Church of England and Methodist church, in Netherghyll Lane, has won permission from the Diocesan Chancellor and Craven District Council to revamp a building which will provide parishioners with a "welcoming" church that is "fit for purpose for the 21st century".

"We will now be putting out tenders and then trying to raise the money," said vicar the Rev John Peet. "We have already been granted £100,000 from the Methodist Circuit."

He said some of the money had come from funds raised by the sale of Cononley Church Centre, which was used for worship and activities up until its closure in 2008.

In addition to the circuit grant, Mr Peet added: "We have to raise approximately £60,000 on top of this, and we'll be applying to grant making bodies and doing some local fundraising."

The project, a total revamp of the church interior, will include the construction of a narthex, or enclosed room, at the west end of the church. It will have an accessible toilet, baby changing facilities, a kitchenette with joiner-made oak units, storage and a pram park.

The inner lobby will be oak framed and glazed as will the lower section of the new gallery staircase. The gallery will have an open area for various activities with oak storage cupboards to store equipment and folding steel-framed chairs.

In the nave, the font will be relocated to the south east end of the church, a projector screen will be installed and all but two of the Victorian pews will be removed and replaced with good quality timber stackable chairs or moveable benches. Existing nave lights will be removed and new LED lighting will be installed.

In the east end of the church, the steps to the chancel will extended across the full width of the church and brought forward with oak treads and risers to allow the existing choir stalls to be retained. New handrails, formed in oak, will allow safe access to the chancel.

The toilet and washing facilities behind the organ will be removed and the space used for storage.

Throughout the church, floors will be refinished in natural oak-coloured plywood, and radiators and heaters will be replaced with flat panel convector radiators.

Mr Peet said: "If we can accomplish all that we wish, we will have a welcoming church building 'fit for purpose' for the 21st century, with proper toilet and kitchen facilities, and with increased flexibility for worship, work with young people and for concerts and activities, while retaining and enhancing the best features of the building."