Lancashire: old church at heart of community regeneration project

  An old Catholic churchyard in Lancashire with around 1,840 graves, is to make way for a multi-million pound multi-faith community centre with sports and leisure facilities - Lancashire diocese announced last week. A team of experts has just moved into the churchyard of the redundant St Augustine's of Canterbury Church in Avenham, to begin the sensitive task of transferring the remains to Preston Cemetery. Most of the graves are 19th century. The last burial on the site took place in 1936. Fr Michael Murphy, Avenham parish priest, will lead a special memorial service when the task in completed in about twelve weeks time. Later this summer, it is expected work will begin on the major regeneration project in what is one of most deprived areas of the country. The RC Diocese of Lancaster initiated the scheme, following a detailed feasibility study. There have been extensive consultations with the community, and the St Augustine's Regeneration Trust have pledged to continue these as the project develops. Under the scheme, parts of St Augustine's, which is a Grade II listed building, will be retained. Fr Murphy, who is a member of the Trust said discussions with grant funders were at an advanced stage. He said: "We would like to begin demolition work in July and be ready to open the doors of St Augustine's New Avenham Centre before Christmas 2004. "The community of Avenham has changed over the years, and we want to build a centre which can be used by all people, young and old, of all faiths. The time is right to begin a new chapter in the history of our parish, and the necessary work in the churchyard is the first step. " The project has been developed by the St Augustine's Regeneration Trust, which is a registered charity, and comprises a Partnership of the RC Diocese of Lancaster, Cardinal Newman College, and the AvenQuest Community Regeneration Trust. For more information visit the Diocese of Lancaster's website at:

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