This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury (and, oddly, in identical form in the next day's edition too)
Ambitious £3M vision for Leicester cathedral gardens unveiled
Church leaders have unveiled images of proposed new £3 million gardens outside Leicester cathedral.
Staff at the historic building want to create an area with trees and flowers that could host outdoor services and concerts.
As previously reported in the Mercury, the clergy and Leicester City Council are jointly funding the £3 million scheme and yesterday artist's impressions were published.
The move will see the precincts of the cathedral being combined with the car park of the redeveloped St Martin's House diocese building for a new public space.
The gardens will be capable of being turned into an outdoor venue with seating for up to 800 people.
They will include a tranquil graveyard created with the gravestones that stand outside the cathedral.
In 2009, before St Martin's House was started, the cathedral announced plans to transform the grounds but a lack of cash was a problem.
The diocese plans to raise its half of the £3 million through grants and private donations.
The Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens, said the scheme, which is waiting for planning permission, was going ahead thanks to the backing of city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.
He said: "We have long wanted to give the cathedral its proper setting in the city and to make our spaces more attractive. Cathedral Gardens will now allow us to do just that.
"We are very grateful to the city mayor for his backing in getting us to this point and look forward to realising our vision during 2013."
The city council cash will come from the £19 million Connecting Leicester fund set up by the city mayor.
The cash will also be used for a new Jubilee Square at St Nicholas' Circle nearby.
Sir Peter said: "Cathedral Gardens would provide a wonderful setting for our city's cathedral and is an excellent example of what could be achieved through a shared Connecting Leicester vision."
The new gardens will include a central lawn and a water feature outside the cathedral.
The planning application will also include the demolition of a wall on the north side of the St Martins House car park to create a new cafe that will link Cathedral Gardens and the entrance to the Guildhall.
Demolishing the wall is likely to be a stumbling block though.
Chairman of Leicester Civic Society Stuart Bailey said: "The wall is a listed building in its own right and we and English Heritage have expressed our concerns about losing it."
He said there were also concerns about plans to straighten the footpath to the east of the cathedral.
The plans are being sent to the city council and the Church of England's own planning authority for approval. Artist's impressions are available at: www.cathedralgardens. dioceseofleicester.com