ONE of Pendle's most important historic buildings looks set to get a new lease of life through a plan to turn it into a community centre.
The former Spring Bank Hotel in Manchester Road, Nelson – once home to textile giants the Ecroyds and more recently known as the Groves Hotel and Hawthornes nightclub – has been empty for almost a decade. It has suffered vandalism, fires and the effects of weather.
Several plans to restore the Grade II listed building have collapsed and its condition has gradually worsened over the years.
Now Nelson's Madina Mosque has come up with plans to restore the main building as a community centre and build a subtly-designed new mosque in the grounds, away from Spring Bank itself and designed not to dominate the site.
It would also include a business starter centre and open gardens.
The Madina Mosque in Forest Street has been serving Nelson's Muslim community for 35 years. Mr Mohammed Rafiq, project co-ordinator, said: "As well as providing a place for worship and prayer, we run information technology classes and sporting events for children. We are socially interactive.
"The present site in Forest Street does not now really fulfil our requirements. The Groves Hotel has not been available for the past few years but 12 months ago we had an opportunity to take it over. It gives us the chance to pump some money into the environment and try to restore the listed building to its former glory."
Mr Rafiq added: "There is a lack of a community centre in that part of town and lack of community facilities generally in Nelson. At the moment, there is now only the Silverman Hall in Nelson.
"The former hotel will be restored and refurbished, using the existing building as a community centre. The plan to build a new mosque in the grounds is a medium to long-term plan and would probably take five to 10 years."
There will also be 80 parking spaces around the site.
Mr Rafiq said: "We will maintain the important mature trees, some of which have been growing for 80 or 100 years or more. Attention has been paid to the trees throughout planning."
Mr Afzal Malik, acting president of the mosque, said: "We have been here for 40 years. We see the building as part of the history of Nelson and that's the way we would like to keep it."
Mr Brian Cookson, Pendle Council's Executive Director (Regeneration), said: "A planning application has been submitted and it is going to be considered shortly. It is positive, and it is good news in that someone will get involved in progressing the restoration."
However, he said the planning decision would be taken by councillors after the public had had the opportunity to comment on the proposals.
For more on these new plans, don't miss tomorrow's Nelson Leader.