A POPULAR church hall in York that looked set to be turned into flats could be given a last-gasp reprieve and re-opened as a community facility.

Planning permission was granted last autumn for St Barnabas Church Hall, in Salisbury Terrace off Leeman Road, to be converted into apartments.

But now a local youth organisation wants to move in and give it a new lease of life. The church council has agreed, but the group must first raise the best part of £200,000 to help fund improvement works at the church itself and to the hall.

Carl Tinnion, director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), which wants to move into the hall, said: "We have run in different places around the city, and classrooms and so on, but we are trying to find more permanent places.

"This building is owned by the Church of England, by the parochial church council (PCC) of St Barnabas Church. They have gone through a long process trying to get it turned into flats, but I know them and asked if they would consider offering it to us first.

"They thought about it and said that would be better for the community."

The two-storey building has a café downstairs and a hall upstairs. It would cost £150,000 but YWAM would also need to fund health and safety improvements, a new roof and some structural works.

YWAM has raised about £50,000 so far but wants to get at least another £100,000 by the end of July. It is considering a "buy a brick" scheme, with people sponsoring bricks at £100 a time.

The organisation does a wide range of work in the city, including training courses for youngsters, work with homeless people, and volunteering at the St Sampson's Centre.

Mr Tinnion added: "St Barnabas have to raise funds for their own church building, but they are very committed to the project. They saw it as a win-win situation.

"They have been really generous and are trying to help."

The Rev Karen Burnett-Hall, vicar of St Barnabas', said the church had to sell the hall to fund improvements in the church, and to meet charity commission requirements.

She said: "It would be great for a Christian organisation like YWAM, that does a lot, to move in. That would be great."

She said the church would be "delighted" to sell the hall to them and could then press ahead with its own improvements, including kitchen facilities, disabled access, a hall within the church, and toilets.