Plans to restore a historic Blackpool shrine and transform it into a £650,000 community centre have taken the first step with a £100,000 English Heritage grant.

The Thanksgiving Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Whinney Heys Road, known as the white church', was earmarked for the cash boost to repair the leaky roof and guttering.

Further plans have been revealed to use the building, made of Portland stone, as a community centre to be used for non-denominational religious services, by local groups and for exhibitions.

Terence Wooding, chair of the Blackpool branch of the Historic Chapels Trust, which acquired the listed building in 2000 said dance, drama and support groups had already been in touch and it is also hoped a non-denominational Christmas concert could be held every year.

He said: "The £100,000 is putting us well on our way and hopefully now we'll get further grants from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund and we plan to hold own fundraising events too.

"All the original fittings are in storage and the pews can be moved so community groups can use it.

"We've even had a Jamaican music group ask about it. It's very exciting."

The news, which comes as English Heritage placed the building on its Building At Risk register to focus public attention on it, was welcomed by campaigner, Frederick Unsworth, 80, of Marton.

He was instrumental in getting Grade II listed building status for it after it was threatened with demolition in 1999.

He said: It's a beautiful building and a landmark in Blackpool and to have it as something the whole community can use is fantastic."

The shrine was built between 1955 and 1957 and was inhabited by three different Roman Catholic orders, including nuns and monks.

It was opened as a thanksgiving offering for the preservation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster.

It was deconsecrated in 1993 and it stood redundant until the Historic Chapels Trust took ownership seven years later.