PLANNING permission for £2m of work designed to create the ideal setting for Chester’s historic cathedral will be sought early in the new year.
Chester’s medieval Cathedral already attracts about one million visitors each year – but it is visually compromised by its city centre location.
Proposals to go before Cheshire West and Chester’s Planning Board focus on the building’s southerly aspects and are designed to create a city square which will feature the historic building at its heart.
And if the scheme, by historic environmental specialist BDP, gets the go-ahead work could start in the spring.
“Historically and architecturally, the cathedral is a priceless jewel which deserves a much better setting,” said Cllr Richard Short, executive member for culture and recreation.
“Opening up its full potential, together with the other projects planned, will help to attract even more visitors and boost the economy of the cathedral and city.”
Approaches from St Werburgh Street through to Town Hall Square will see resurfacing of pavements and roads, together with replacement of street furniture, trees and soft landscaping.
The footpath next to the Addleshaw Bell Tower will be relocated further north to give better and safer access from the walls and Frodsham Street.
And the Cheshire Regimental Garden will be retained as a contemplative space but redesigned to further complement its surroundings.
Major Eddie Pickering, Mercian Regiment assistant regimental secretary for Cheshire, welcomed the plan, and said: “I am delighted that the Regimental Garden will be opened up and hope that more people will be able to come and enjoy the peace and quiet, while reflecting on the brave deeds of the soldiers of Cheshire.”
New lighting in and around the footpaths would make the new routes and square safe to use after dark, while sensitive lighting of the exterior of the cathedral would highlight the building’s architectural qualities at night.
The Very Rev Gordon McPhate, Dean of Chester, said: “For many years the cathedral has been hidden in the midst of our city.
“This project will enable the cathedral to attract and receive its citizens and visitors with open arms, because people will see the cathedral in a new way.”
Recently, the council’s executive gave the go-ahead to go out to tender for a single contractor to oversee three elements of the reconfigured first phase of the £7.5m Cathedral Quarter project.
Cathedral at Height – a dramatic scheme to convert the building’s central tower into a unique viewing gallery – has already been granted planning permission.
And plans to create a flexible stage in the Nave to provide the Cathedral and Chester with the ability to stage a wider range of events capable of housing audiences up to 1,800 have gone to the Cathedral Fabrics Commission for England.
The Cathedral Quarter project suffered a setback when the NWDA potential funding offer was withdrawn in July but the council and its partners, Chester Cathedral and Chester Renaissance, have stressed their determination to continue.