THE process of handing over an historic Kates Hill church to the group fighting to preserve it has begun.

The grade II listed St John’s Church looks set to be formally closed and transferred to St John's Church Preservation Group as leaseholders.

Church Commissioners, acting on the recommendation of officials at the Diocese of Worcester, have prepared a draft Pastoral Church Buildings Scheme which paves the way for the preparation of a new lease.

The handover process began at the end of a month-long public consultation which saw an overwhelming number of responses in favour of the change.

Deb Brownlee, chairman of St John's Church Preservation Group, said: "This has been a nail-biting month as any objections could have caused significant delays, and we thank all those who responded to our request for support letters and emails.

“Together the incredible and loyal supporters of St John's have done what was needed and we can now move on in the re-opening process."

Professor Carl Chinn, patron of the preservation group, wrote the first support letter in favour of the scheme.

He said: "The church building is a vital element in the local history of Dudley and the regional history of the Black Country, and I believe the group will be able to bring it back to life for the well- being of both the local and wider communities.”

The preservation group aims to re-open the building as quickly as possible for Christian worship, as a community hub and for tourism.

Campaigners have been working on the preservation project since 2007 and although the latest development is a big step forward, they need to continue fundraising to cover renovation and re-opening costs.

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