Leicester Cathedral grounds plan given £50k grant boost
Plans to refurbish the area outside Leicester Cathedral have received a cash boost.
A £50,000 grant has been offered by Leicestershire aggregates firm Lafarge toward the £3 million Cathedral Gardens scheme.
Church leaders want to revamp the "tired-looking" forecourt to the cathedral, in St Martins, and are raising money towards the cost.
About half of the total expense will be met by Leicester City Council – for highways works associated with project – and the Diocese of Leicester is trying to raise the rest.
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Cathedral Gardens project manager Pete Hobson said: "We are very pleased to get the support of Lafarge because it demonstrates confidence in what we are doing.
"The money has come from Landfill Tax.
"We have had some hits (with applications for funds) but we still have some way to go."
Mr Hobson said he hoped more money would be secured if and when the revamp is granted planning permission by the city council.
He said: "That will be a key factor. Once organisations see the scheme is going ahead, they will be able to commit to supporting it."
The planning committee is set to consider the project on January 30.
Mr Hobson said: "Should we get permission, then we are not anticipating jumping right in.
"Most of the work is likely to happen in 2014."
Concerns about the project have been raised by English Heritage and Leicester Civic Society, about alterations to listed structures already present, including a Tudor wall dating from 1519, and the removal of railings.
Mr Hobson said there was some room for manoeuvre with the plans.
He said: "Some of the points raised by them we think we have got right already. Others are open to negotiation.
"The end result will be a lovely public space in fitting with the historic surroundings."
Civic society chairman Stuart Bailey said: "Overall, we applaud the idea behind this but we don't accept there is a need to alter important parts of the city's historic fabric to achieve it.
"We think the end result could be achieved while preserving the features that have stood for so long."
The scheme recently received the blessing of another heritage watchdog, the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England, which must approve changes to any of the country's major churches.
The cathedral anticipates a surge in visitor numbers should a skeleton discovered by archeologists under a nearby car park prove to be that of Richard III.
DNA tests results are expected in the new year and, should the remains prove royal, the cathedral is the leading contender as a venue for them to be laid to rest.