FOUR of the UK's leading heritage bodies are calling for action to save a historic Liverpool church from decay.

The Welsh Presbyterian Church in Toxteth is on the city's buildings at risk register and the ECHO's Stop the Rot hitlist.

The Architectural Heritage Fund, together with three other major preservation organisations, is offering to help restore the Princes Road building if its ownership can be secured.

It is calling for the council to serve a Compulsory Purchase Order on owners the Nigerian-based Brotherhood of the Cross and Star.The Brotherhood owes the council £275,000 for urgent work carried out on the Victorian church.

Chief of the Architectural Heritage Fund, Ian Lush, in a letter to council chief executive Colin Hilton, said: "The church is a long-running 'cause celebre' in the heritage world.

"But we're now increasingly disturbed at the role of the owners in neglecting the building, despite the best efforts of the council to encourage them to take care of it and to carry out the necessary maintenance.

"It would be a fine achievement for the council if this situation could be turned around in time for Capital of Culture, by serving the CPO and helping work to begin on restoring and finding a new use for this highly-significant building."

The city has had talks with one of the organisations, the Heritage Trust of the North West, which two years ago carried out a study with a view to taking on the grade II-listed building.

A council spokesman said: "We want to try and do things by negotiation.

"We're setting up talks between the Brotherhood and the Heritage Trust and our main aim is to get this important building back into viable use."

No-one from the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star was available forcomment.