YORK'S biggest amateur sports club has won charitable status, helping to guarantee its future in the 21st century.

The Charity Commissioners says it is satisfied that York Railway Institute is a charity and it has entered the RI onto its Register of Charities.

Frank Paterson, president of York RI, said: "This is great news. A lot of people have worked hard over the last few months to achieve this significant step towards building a continuing future for all the facilities provided to the community by York RI."

The future of the Institute, which has about 2,800 members, has been in doubt since it emerged in 2014 that it was set to lose £70,000 a year in rates relief when new Government rules come into force this year.

The RI has been registered for many years as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC), qualifying it for 80 per cent rates relief, but the new rules limit the size of community amateur sports clubs, so that organisations earning more than £100,000 a year will lose their CASC status and rates relief.

The institute's council originally suggested splitting the club up into five parts but the controversial proposal was withdrawn after a meeting in April last year had to be abandoned when 400 people turned up. Members later voted overwhelmingly in favour of becoming a single unit charity.

Mr Paterson said the switch to charitable status would entitle the RI to the same rate relief as CASC status and there would be other benefits, such as being able to claim Gift Aid, and it would be able to offer its facilities for the less well off in society.

However, it would also face an increase in its responsibilities, as it would become answerable to the commission, and it would therefore be even more important for it to attract the skills and talents of its members for volunteer roles.

The news comes just a week after the RI launched a campaign to protect its sports facilities in Queen Street, which could be knocked down to make way for the York Central 'teardrop' development.

The facilities under threat include nine badminton courts, five squash courts, table tennis rooms, a gym and weights room plus snooker and billiards tables, and the club has produced a leaflet urging members and residents to 'Shout for York RI'.

City of York Council said last week that as part of its consultation on York Central, it was seeking to better understand residents, stakeholders and businesses’ views and the institute was a valued consultee and its views were being sought as part of the consultation.