A major £5 million bid is under way to raise money to improve one of Lynton s more familiar landmarks. New Community accommodation and other improvements are desperately needed at Lee Abbey in the Valley of Rocks, Lynton, and the Christian community who r

A major £5 million bid is under way to raise money to improve one of Lynton's more familiar landmarks.New Community accommodation and other improvements are desperately needed at Lee Abbey in the Valley of Rocks, Lynton, and the Christian community who reside there have launched its Towards Tomorrow appeal to make their vision for the site a reality.At present some of the 90-plus community live in cramped and drafty annexes, others have share up to four to a room in bunk beds while others live off site in a house in Lynton.The complex, which is not - nor has ever been - an abbey, was built in the 1850s as a private home. It now takes in paying guests as well as hosting business conferences and outward bound residential holidays for youngsters.It may appear self-contained, but Lee Abbey - run by the Lee Abbey Fellowship - brings thousands of visitors to the North Devon area each year, as well as hosting conferences and events.The first phase of the Towards Tomorrow project saw the opening in 2004 of the new Beacon Centre, which provides residential courses for schools and youth groups from Devon and across the country. Among their visitors there have been children from inner city backgrounds, who have benefitted greatly from their time spent at the Beacon centre. During the month of August Lee Abbey also hosts Youth Camps for 16-25 year olds, and is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary."Accommodation is the biggest issue that affects us on a daily basis," said Operations Manager George Thomas about the fundraising appeal."We would like to create a new block of accommodation for our community, as well as enlarging and refitting our cramped dining room."Plus improved guest and youth camp facilities - at a cost of somewhere between five and five-and-a-half million pounds."It is hoped to build a new two-storey accommodation block in part of the car park, to allow for better facilities for our resident community, which would bring their accommodation up to current standards.Planning permission has already been granted in principal and if the appeal goes well it is hoped to begin work within the next year.So far £1,445,010 has been raised for the project from the generosity of guests, Friends of Lee Abbey and charitable trusts. Some £300,000 of this money has already been spent on The Workshop, a new youth suite, completed last year which provides play and work areas for children and young people staying at the main house.People from right here in North Devon to those from all over the world come to stay at Lee Abbey "It's a lifeline to many people, almost like a spiritual hospital," said George."The community too come from all over the world and serve here from a few months to several years."These people are looking for a new direction, or are at a crossroads in their life and need time to reflect on their purpose."Jill Davey, who is co-ordinating the fund raising, added: "We have people coming here from all over the world, and when they leave here they take what they have learned and use it to help others."George added: "As part of this build we are investigating the use of renewable energy sources which will include a hydro-electric scheme involving our stream, solar energy and the use of a wood chip boiler to name but a few."To help with the Towards Tomorrow project or to find out more about it and Lee Abbey, visit www.leeabbey.org.uk or call Jill Davey on (01598) 754253.