An iconic church has been saved after a plan to hand it over to a London-based Anglican group was approved.

St Peter's Church in York Place, Brighton, faced closure after falling congregation numbers and structural disrepair made it financially unsound.

But this week Holy Trinity Brompton, a world renowned Anglican group who first developed the Alpha Course, agreed to take over the running of the church.

For more than a year it looked as though Grade II* St Peter's - one of Brighton's most prominent landmarks - might be closed as a place of worship and converted into a cafe or shops.

But under the new pastoral scheme approved by the Church Commissioners on Tuesday St Peter's will remain under Church of England control.

It will be leased by the Chichester Diocesan Fund and Board of Finance to HTB who will maintain the building and run services.

The parish and benefice of Brighton and St Peter with the Chapel Royal will be dissolved and two new parishes and benefices created – Brighton The Chapel Royal and Brighton St Peter.

Jean Calder, convenor of the Friends of St Peter's Church said: "We welcome the help of HTB.

"We accept the proposed division of the two parishes and note that although the new parish of St Peter will be reduced in size, this might make it easier for the church to serve the city as a whole."

But the group have made a request to the Church Commissioners that worship continue during the handover period.

Ms Calder added: "After the epic struggle to save the church, the last thing the congregation needs is to be dispersed, which would create a risk of vandalism.

"It is vital to ensure the period of redundancy is for a matter of hours, rather than days, weeks or months."

But a spokesman for the Diocese of Chichester says this is unlikely.

Revd David Guest said: "This is just one early step in a long process – nothing is confirmed for sure.

"We must now partake in further legal discussions and also perhaps the repair of the church roof before Holy Trinity Brompton could arrive.

"The church may well have to close until the final details of the agreement are decided upon and dates are fixed by the bishop.

"It is a little bit like selling a house – you wouldn't expect to have people moving in the next day, there are a lot of legal details to be dealt with.

"Hopefully it will be no more than a matter of months and then we can all join hands and reopen St Peter's with HTB."

A spokesman from HTB said: “"It has been a privilege to work with the diocese of Chichester on the future of St Peter's Brighton and we are grateful to the Bishop and his leadership team for all their encouragement and support.

“We are excited to have been invited to play a part in the diocese's vision for a new chapter in the life of St Peter's."