From clubbers to worshippers: Church wants to take over Fifth Avenue venue

Telegraph, UK/May 16, 2011

A controversial church group has submitted plans to transform a derelict former nightclub into a £1 million place of worship.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) has applied to Peterborough City Council for permission to change the use of the defunct Fifth Avenue nightclub in Laxton Square which has stood empty since 2003.

They have revealed ambitious plans for a 280-seat church along with a Help Centre with training rooms, a book shop and a small cafe.

The church has caused controversy on a number of internet sites concerning some of its alleged activities in the past.

However Paul Hill, UCKG's head of communications, said there was nothing for Peterborough residents to worry about.

He said: "We are committed Christians.

"Controversial comments on the internet are ill-founded and are not what UCKG is about."

The global Pentecostal church. which first began in Brazil in 1977, has chosen to invest in the city to build on their 50-strong regular congregation in the area and is looking to move in "as quickly as possible".

Mr Hill added: "Having introduced a limited range of services in Peterborough four years ago we now have a congregation of around 50.

"We favour central locations with good public transport links as we offer daily public services of prayer and an extensive range of outreach activities.

"Around 90 per cent of the people using these are non-believers and members of other major faiths.

"Our full-time locations are called Help Centres as we aim to help people enjoy rich and fulfilling lives in the present, irrespective of faith and background, as well as promoting the Christian faith."

Among the outreach activities the church plans to offer will be IT, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and basic skills courses as well as free one-to-one advice sessions.

They also want to offer services for both youth and senior citizens' groups.

Initial surveys undertaken by the church on the building, which has been plagued by vandalism and metal thefts in recent years, mean it will cost around £1 million to revamp the site.

Mr Hill added: "The application has been validated and legally should be considered within eight weeks; however we are some way off forming a new Help Centre in Peterborough.

"We have the current owner's permission to seek planning consent and are committed to doing so, but as yet there is no agreement to buy the property.

"Nonetheless, we would like to establish a full Help Centre in Peterborough as quickly as possible."

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