This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Cathedral revamp approved
Plans to create a new public square outside Leicester Cathedral have been given the go-ahead.
The Cathedral Gardens project was approved by Leicester City Council's planning committee on Wednesday.
Church leaders said they were delighted to have gained permission for the £3 million scheme and hoped clearing the hurdle would make it easier to raise the cash they need to make it happen.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has pledged to finance half of the scheme if the Diocese of Leicester can raise the rest.
Project director the Rev Pete Hobson said: "It's an important hurdle to clear because we do need to raise a lot of money and, understandably, there can be a reluctance to offer support to a project that doesn't have planning permission.
"This is a significant scheme for the city and we have worked very hard on it.
"We know we are dealing with a sensitive part of the city's heritage and we want to get it right."
English Heritage had raised concerns about some elements of the scheme, such as the types of flagstones used and the removal of listed railings, but it withdrew objections after the diocese revised the project.
However, Leicester Civic Society chairman Stuart Bailey said he remained concerned about a section of grade II-listed wall which will be reduced in height from seven feet to 16 inches to open the historic Guildhall building up to the new square.
He said: "This has gone through as an alteration to a listed structure which is being reduced in height, but in my view it is simply the destruction of a bit of the city's historic fabric which, once gone, will be lost forever."
The cathedral believes the wall dates from 1888 but Mr Bailey said he thought it was much older, a remnant of the medieval city.
He said: "It's actually irrelevant how old it is. It's listed so it should not be destroyed.
Mr Hobson said there was a "genuine difference of view" on the historic value of the wall.
The scheme will see the overhaul of the cathedral forecourt off Peacock Lane, which was built in 1987, with new lawns and paths installed.
Mr Hobson said the cathedral was anticipating a surge in visitors should human remains discovered by archeologists in a nearby car park turn out to be those of Richard III. He said he expected most of the work on the gardens would be done in 2014.
Anyone wishing to donate to the project should call Mr Hobson on 0116 261 5200.