A GAY couple who made legal history by fathering suggorate children are set to open a centre to help other same-sex couples become parents.

Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, 41, who together with his civil partner Tony is surrogate father to five children, revealed he is to open the unique surrogacy centre for same-sex couples in Maldon next month.

The British Surrogacy Agency will operate from Chandlers Quay, and will also have offices in San Francisco.

Barrie said: “The centre will focus on all things surrogacy-related and will be the first centre of its kind in the UK.

“Its aim is to bring together intended parents with egg donors and surrogates along with sperm donors, and offer legal advice from qualified legal professionals.

“I will be responsible for the assessment of intended parents and the assessments of potential egg donors and surrogates, and for helping with all legal documentation to allow each couple to bring home their baby to the UK.”

The centre will employ several local people, which according to Mr Drewitt-Barlow will increase as it grows.

Barrie also said news that Elton John and his civil partner David Furnish became parents to their first surrogate child last Tuesday would help the gay parenting cause.

The celebrity couple became parents to a baby boy, Zachary, born to a surrogate mother in California, having tried unsuccessfully to adopt an orphan in the Ukraine last year.

And Barrie believes their own parenthood has paved the way for other gay couples to become fathers.

He said: “Tony and I never set out to be trailblazers in any way whatsoever. But we are happy many people over the years have followed in our footsteps.

“It’s even better to know celebrities like Elton have done the same thing now, and it’s positive news for gay parenting.

“The more high profile the people using surrogacy to start their families, the more mainstream it becomes.”

The Drewitt-Barlows, who tied the knot in 2006, have two sets of twins, Aspen and Saffron, both 11, and Jasper and Dallas, both now ten months old.

Their other son, Orlando, is seven.

The substantial press coverage given to the pair over the years has raised awareness of the issue.

Barrie, from Danbury, said: “Elton and David will not have the same issues as we did.

“Like any first, we have taken most of the criticism and the flak, which will make it easier for anyone else taking this pathway to parenthood.

“There are many gay parents now in the UK thanks to the measures we took over a decade ago.

“The awareness of gay parenting is 100 times higher now thanks to our press coverage and TV appearances.

“Elton and David will be amazing parents.

“I just wish they would adopt me!”

He added society is now more tolerant towards gay parents, but said “there is a long way to go”.

The new surrogacy centre will open at the end of January, and has registered the website www.thebritishsurrogacycentre.com