Page last updated at 06:56 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Church plans to run bowling alley

The former cheese packing plant
The old factory site will have a bowling alley, cafe and community services

A church is planning to open and run a ten-pin bowling alley to help bring jobs to its local community.

Towy Community Church plans to lease the 2.7 acre site of the former St Ivel cheese packing plant in Johnstown from Carmarthenshire council.

The 12-lane arena would create up to 20 jobs and profits will help fund community projects on site, including a food bank and free debt counselling.

Pastor Mark Bennett said churches had to change to engage with communities.

"Churches have to change the way they operate," he said.

"I mean, keeping their core identity but changing the package and really connecting with our communities in the 21st century.

"So we have to serve and be 'salt and light' in our communities and not just preach on a Sunday."

The church's Sunday services would also be held at the new site, along with its furniture recycling scheme for people suffering hardship, a 50 seat café, a conference centre and performing arts activities for teenagers.

The idea is that with a bowling alley it will create jobs and generate income which will be reinvested back into the community
Pastor Mark Bennett, senior church leader

Mr Bennet said the church was applying for £800,000 of funding from the Community Asset Transfer Programme (CAT), run by the Big Lottery Fund and the assembly government, which supports the free transfer of land and buildings from the public sector to community ownership.

The church has back-up options for funding if it is not approved.

But Mr Bennett, who is the church's senior leader, said he hopes the new site and bowling alley will be open sometime between this autumn and spring 2011.

"The idea is that with a bowling alley it will create jobs and generate income which will be reinvested back into the community," he said.

"But also with a bowling alley, with the generation of the cash and the income it will be ploughed back into the other projects which don't generate income, such as the furniture recycling, the food bank, the debt advice, so they all tie together and work together."

Worker in the former cheese packing plant
The bowling alley will be on the site of a former cheese packing plant

The people of Johnstown will be consulted about the plans and members of the public will have an opportunity to complete surveys giving their thoughts on the project.

The scheme is being run in partnership with Carmarthenshire council, who are the current owners of the former cheese packing site.

Councillor Clive Scourfield, executive board member for regeneration and leisure services, said: "This is a hugely encouraging brave and bold venture by the church to help the youth, economy and social development of community.

"The authority is helping the church source grant funding from the New Community Assets Fund, Lottery and various social enterprise grants to help finance the new complex."

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