WORK to transform a disused former church and make it the heart of the community is set to start.

Fencing is in place around the former West Bay Methodist Church to allow work to begin on the building in a project that aims to ‘inspire people to explore West Bay.’

The building will receive a new lease of life as it becomes a discovery centre in a development being led by the Bridport Area Development Trust (BADT).

BADT was awarded a £240,000 grant from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) in April 2017 and is working closely with Bridport and West Bay Coastal Community Team to breathe new life into the Grade II listed building.

Trust director, John West, said: “We got the Coastal Communities Fund last year to carry out restoration work on the building. There are plans being put in place as to how to do that. We want to adapt the building so it can be used as a discovery centre and inspire people about all the things to do in West Bay – there is so much people don’t realise. It will give everyone ideas about what to do when here.

“We are looking to appoint a contractor to carry out the work and then work will start fairly shortly and take about two to three months. Hopefully we’ll be open by the end of summer.”

The ‘chapel on the beach’ has been empty and unused since it ceased use as a place of worship in 2006.

The building reverted to the landowner, West Dorset District Council, which sought an alternative use. The freehold of the building was transferred to BADT in July 2012 at the cost of £1 - on condition that the building should be converted into a visitor centre for West Bay.

Now, Mr West is inviting all those with a love of West Bay – locals and visitors alike – to share their stories and experiences of the area so that they can feature in the new hub.

“We’d like to share stories about West Bay – past and present – and we would very much like to involve the local community,” he said. “West Bay is the only area without a visitor centre and this has long been seen as a gap that needs to be filled. It will make a big difference.”

Three other projects in West Bay, funded by the CCF, are being co-ordinated by the Dorset Coast Forum.

These include £270,000 towards improved cycle access at West Bay, a grant of £32,000 for beach access at West Bay, a £126,000 boost for a west Dorset welcome project