A DIOCESE struggling to pay maintenance bills for a 19th century church is looking for designers to regenerate the building.

The Diocese of Chichester is working with architect company Colander to transform St Martin’s Church, in Lewes Road, Brighton, into a multi-purpose venue.

It would still be a place of worship but would have other uses too.

The dioces has launched a competition looking for designers who can fulfil that purpose.

The Grade II listed church was built in the 1860s by Reverend Henry Wagner during the Victorian era which saw a population boom in the city.

It became a place of worship for artisans, workers and poorer families.

Peter Field, Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, is chairing the judging panel.

He said: “The dedicated church congregation and their diocese are faced with an increasing maintenance bill which they cannot afford.

“They can’t make provision for the church’s future as well.

“It’s also the issue facing many churches in the city and in the country.

“The diocese is spending millions on St Peter’s in Brighton.

“The Diocese of Chichester and the parish are exploring a radical new idea to see if they can find the solution.

“The idea is supported by a local charity keen to develop new ideas for the city for a better Brighton and Hove.

“They are holding an architectural competition with a difference.

“They are not just looking for innovative design ideas on this magnificent Grade ll listed building, they are seeking team entries which can prove their designs can attract users, and developers and investors.”

Mr Field believed this regeneration project is a possible way forward for the survival of the city’s heritage building problems.

He said: “St Martin’s is big in both floor space and volume and I see no reason why additional space cannot be created to result in a very large area that can be put to a variety of uses – be they commercial, cultural or community.

“Care will be needed to reflect and incorporate the magnificent internal features, but we could end up with a very exciting project.”

Go to colander.co.uk/architectural-competitions for more information.

Entries close on September 17.