A £1.5 million church revamp is poised to go ahead after plans were approved for a development involving a cafe, sports hall and function room.

Leaders at St Elisabeth’s in Harraby, Carlisle, said they were delighted to get the go-ahead from the city council, describing the move as “exciting”.

The church’s distinctive bell tower, a landmark on the estate, is set to be bulldozed because it is not water tight.

But along with the new set-up, the redevelopment should also provide extra room for the range of activities already put on.

The church says these have grown and need more space.

The grounds of the church, which regularly attracts about 150 people to its family Sunday services, will also be landscaped.

St Elisabeth’s, off Arnside Road, was built and consecrated as a new church in 1967.

Church authorities had already given full approval to the scheme – but the next hurdle of gaining planning permission has now been crossed.

The church says it took several years of research and planning to reach this milestone – and the focus will now turn to fundraising.

The Rev Sue Wicks The Reverend Sue Wicks, vicar of St Elisabeth’s, said: “This is an exciting development as we look to continue to grow as a church family and as a community in our parish.

“Harraby is seeing investment in community and other facilities and our development will play its part in that growth.

“It is also an opportunity for us to help change lives for the better and continue in our mission to support those around us.”

The church council and authorities have pledged to make every effort to ensure the bells in the tower will be either used in another church or are stored safely.

They say they believe it is more important to have an actively used centre serving the community rather than maintaining an inadequate building.

The church’s popular children’s groups include sessions for the under-fives as well as Beavers, Cubs and Scouts for five to 16-year-olds.

There is also a weekly drop-in for coffee and tea, monthly coffee mornings and regular social functions.

The church has previously said it hoped people would be using the new development within three years.

Rev Wicks also said the need for such a set-up was demonstrated during the recent flooding.

She said that being on higher ground, the building was in a good position to be available as an emergency centre. But the lack of adequate toilet and kitchen facilities prevented this, although the space was used for emergency collections.

The new development, she added, could easily become an emergency reception centre, as well as meeting other urgent community needs.

Church leaders are to explore funding options to raise the cash needed for building work to start.

Recent fundraising efforts of churchgoers, lay members and clergy have included a long-distance walk in Ireland, raising more than £1,800.