WORK to renovate a grade 2* listed church in Knutsford town centre has been given the go-ahead by church leaders.

The Parochial Church Council of St John’s Knutsford confirmed to the Guardian on Tuesday that it had received permission from the Diocese of Chester to proceed with its renovation programme.

The works to the parish church building comprise external cleaning and repairs and improved interior spaces designed to be ‘more flexible and effective for contemporary community needs’.

The plans were first revealed in October 2011 and the church has worked with town groups, including Knutsford Conservation and Heritage Group.

The church has so far raised more than £500,000 towards the project, with fundraising continuing for a further phase of work.

St John’s PCC are being advised by Knutsford-based architect Graham Holland Associates and Kingsmere Construction have been appointed as contractor for the initial interior refurbishment.

Building work will begin in September, when the parking bays on Church Hill will be suspended.

Rev Nigel Atkinson said: “Through the long journey we’ve been on so far, we’ve had to keep clear the legacy we want to leave the town – preserving the traditional and authentic witness to the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. We’ll be in a better position to do this with the bright, open and welcoming building we’re planning.”

Parishioners have been attending the lower school hall at Knutsford Academy for the 10.15am worship while the preparation works have taken place.

Churchwarden John Lee added the church was looking to reopen in spring 2014.

He said: “The building will feel as close to its original Georgian atmosphere as it ever did – brighter, whiter and, we hope, fuller.

“But it will also be more flexible enabling us to put on a wider range of events and serve the town better. It’s moving into an exciting phase for us.”

St John’s has a regular attendance of more than 400, and full-time staff of three ministers and other assistants.

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