Saturday, 29 December 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Cathedral gardens revamp criticised by heritage group
English Heritage has raised concerns about £3 million plans to revamp the area outside Leicester Cathedral.
The heritage watchdog says it is unhappy with elements of the Cathedral Gardens project and has joined the Leicester Civic Society in voicing misgivings about the scheme.
Church leaders say they want to create a worthy setting for the 12th-century building, in St Martin's, and an attractive public space.
However, English Heritage has looked at details of the scheme and, though it supports the principle, it says it cannot support it in its current form.
In a letter to Leicester City Council planning officers, its historic building adviser, Helen Ensor, said: "Overall, we see the potential for intervention into this now tired-looking space and the opportunity to create a fitting and functional new forecourt to the cathedral.
"However, we cannot fully support the scheme at this stage and would welcome the opportunity to advise further.
English Heritage opposes the removal of listed railings along the boundary of St Martin's House and St Martin's Lane West as well as the use of Roman-style paving stones.
It has also objected to the removal of headstones.
Ms Ensor said: "Not only are they fine and interesting sculptural elements which point to the cathedral's past as a medieval parish church, but they also represent the life and death of the people who have worshipped here and must be considered as important to the social history of the church and city."
As previously reported in the Mercury, the civic society opposes plans to reduce the height of a grade II-listed Tudor wall, which dates back to 1519, and was part of the Wyggeston Hospital.
It also objects to the alterations to another grade II-listed wall from 1757 which will be reduced in height from eight feet to 16 inches and have an opening created to allow access to the cathedral visitor centre.
It says these will be a loss of historic fabric that has not been justified.
Civic society chairman Stuart Bailey did, however, say the designs for the area were generally of a high quality.
Nobody from the Diocese of Leicester was available for comment yesterday, but the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, has previously said: "Work has been going on to develop proposals for a new Cathedral Gardens space, uniting the current cathedral precincts and St Martin's House grounds to provide not only a more fitting setting for our cathedral, but also a safe and beautiful garden space at the heart of our city for all its residents and visitors."

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