A £3 million fund-raising appeal is to be launched to turn St Mary’s Church in Devizes into an all-singing-and-dancing performing arts centre.

The church in Park Street will remain consecrated and continue to hold religious services.

But plans are steaming ahead for the ancient building to become a home for stage shows, dance performances and an exhibition venue for art, sculpture and film screenings.

Tony Scorer, the project leader for the St Mary’s Devizes Trust, said the appeal will be launched as soon as all permissions from consultations are agreed with various authorities, including English Heritage and Historic England.

He said no complaints from the public had been received in a public consultation on the plans. “There is clear public support for this. Everyone thinks it is an excellent idea. Our vision is to transform the historic Church of St Mary, Devizes, into a new vibrant building.”

The Trust explained: “The Parochial Church Council of St John with St Mary applied for redundancy for the church in 2006 as it did not have a viable congregation as its larger, sister church of St John’s fulfilled the needs of the parish. Rather than accept the redundancy, the Diocese of Salisbury asked the PCC to look for alternative uses.

“The church was offered to the congregation of St Peter’s Devizes but they decided it did not meet their needs. When a major fire affected St John’s church, St Mary’s was brought back in to use temporarily for regular worship.

“There is now a vision in the parish with strong support from the local community, to see each church with a distinctive role with the main worship function being at St John’s.

It said: “The main ideas are to open up the main church space, install an efficient and sustainable heating system, renew the flooring, provide flexible seating, staging and storage for all types of events and provide associated facilities to enable people to benefit from the new spaces.”

The Grade I listed church dates from Norman times and is one of the most important buildings in the town, with its tower a particular landmark.

Besides theatrical and arts shows, the trust plans to open up the church for a café, public meetings, an office for charities and possibly a tourist information centre.

Residents will also be able to hire the church for receptions after weddings and baptisms and for wakes following funerals.

The trust aims to make the building carbon-neutral, by installing a heat pump and adding solar panels to the south roof. Although the altar and choir stalls will remain, many of the old pews will be sold off. “We will sell them to anyone who makes us an offer,” said Mr Scorer.

“We will be looking at corporate funding, Lottery money and heritage funding and other ways of raising money including buy-a-brick and name-a-seat and if anyone wants to sponsor a room in their name we will be open to that too.”

Work will start on fitting out the church as an arts centre once the appeal is launched and threequarters of the £3 million target funding is received.

The ambitious project will start in the tenure of Rev Jonathon Poston, due to be inducted as the new Rector of St John’s and St Mary’s at a service conducted by the Bishop of Ramsbury at St John’s on November 3.