THE empty Bird in Hand pub in Broadwell is to be the new Forest centre for an avowedly teetotal church group, the Salvation Army.

It says it wants to particularly focus on youth, encouraging activities like local music making, in the wake of council cuts to Forest youth services.

For some time now the Army has been sharing space in the United Reform Church premises in Littledean, where it set up in 2006 after an absence of 40 or more years from Forest life.

The Army plans to convert the Bird in Hand over the summer into the hub for its Forest activities.

Leader Captain Vivienne Prescott said: "I am thrilled and excited to finally have our own building. We have been actively searching for premises for four years. We have never felt that a traditional church building would be right for us."

The Bird in Hand was formerly a free house and restaurant until it was closed in late 2009.

It has origins dating back to the late 19th century, with later additions, and there are three bar areas, a car park and a rear garden, plus three-bedroom accommodation.

"We have been sharing premises with the United Reformed Church in Littledean and will continue with our community work and worship from that building," said Capt Prescott.

"The Bird in Hand offers us space as 'the hub' for all our work across the Forest, as well as the opportunity to do specific work in the Broadwell area.

"Following talks with the community, we recognise that there is a need to support young people by offering a safe place to meet and be creative in music and the arts. In the light of recent cuts to youth services in the Forest, our response will need to be swift and we are already having conversations with locals to see what can be put in place."