OTLEY Methodist Church is to sell off the premises it has used for more than a century.

This decision by Otley Methodist Church Council – the local managing trustees of the church – was taken "with deep sadness and some understandable reluctance". The spiralling costs of upkeep and repairs of the large, Grade 2 Listed premises that span Boroughgate and Walkergate, have proved to be prohibitive for the small congregation.

The news was shared with members at a recent general church meeting, and by letter with the uniformed organisations that have been based in the Wesley Hall for several decades, together with other groups.

The current premises have been the home of Otley Methodists for over 100 years, and many local people have attended worship, special occasions and of a host of other activities over that time.

A spokesman said the decision to sell the buildings was not the end of Otley Methodist Church congregation itself. The congregation will continue to occupy the premises for some time as it is estimated that it may take up to a year before the premises are sold. During that time, the congregation will look for a new home in the town.

Rev Martyn Atkins, who until recently was a member of the ministerial team at Otley Methodist Church said:“This was a hard decision for the Church Council to make, but a necessary one given the stark circumstances facing us. I pay tribute to their courage and faithfulness. I am personally saddened because I was a cub, scout, and venture scout, and a member of the youth fellowship, all based in the church premises, and I am profoundly grateful for the key place Otley Methodist Church has in my own faith journey. But older locals will know there have been several Methodist chapels in Otley over the past 250 years, and we are not Christians who are solely identified with or tied to our buildings, lovely though they are. So we will say our prayers and seek the next place of worship, witness and Christian service in Otley.”

Rev Tim Perkins, Superintendent Minister of the Wharfedale and Aireborough Methodist Circuit, of which Otley Methodist Church is part, said:“As a Circuit we stand alongside the Methodist Congregation in Otley. We recognise the difficulties of the choices they have had to make about the church building and the accompanying sadness. We will work with the members of the congregation to help them find a new home and a fresh vision for their mission in the community of Otley. Over the coming months we hope to identify both a new home and a new Minister to help lead the mission of the Methodist Church in Otley. I am personally grateful to Rev Dr Martyn Atkins for the work that he has done over the last nine months to help the congregation through a difficult time and wish him well for his own future ministry.”