Revealed: £12m bid to revamp Lincoln Cathedral
A £12 million vision to make radical changes to Lincoln Cathedral has been unveiled.
Cathedral bosses need to find £1.6 million a year for conservation work on the medieval building for the foreseeable future, and say they can no longer rely on handouts after losing an annual £250,000 grant.
So they are planning a programme of major restoration work, with improved visitor facilities, an expanded restaurant, new learning centre and shop, as well as a landscaping scheme including a medieval garden in a bid to boost income and visitor numbers.
Canon John Patrick, Subdean of Lincoln, said: "Lincoln Cathedral Connected is a project that will significantly enhance not just the cathedral, but also and, just as importantly, the city and county beyond.
"This ancient and historic city deserves to be better known and one of the intentions of Lincoln Cathedral Connected is to ensure that this is the case. The cathedral needs this bid to succeed and I believe that if we do then we shall all be beneficiaries."
The cathedral currently attracts 180,000 visitors a year, but only 75,000 of them pay to look around.
A presentation due to be given to the public will say the current visitor facilities are "inadequate" and do not go far enough to attract and engage families, children and school groups.
An application for £10 million of the money needed will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund in November.
If granted, the team behind the project will then need permission to make changes to the historic building. It is hoped the project can finally be completed in 2020 or 2021.
Cathedral chief executive Phil Hamlyn Williams said: "The income that we receive from our visitors is absolutely vital. Our budget is so finely balanced and to balance the books we really need to double the number of people that pay.
"We want more people to come to the castle, to visit the cathedral and Bailgate, and see what the city and the rest of the county has to offer."
Why this plan is vital
The scheme to dramatically improve the visitor experience at Lincoln Cathedral could be complete in eight years.
Project leaders say the changes are necessary to make the most of the county’s prize asset at a time when finances are stretched.
It comes as the cathedral has lost £250,000 annual funding for the landmark due to English Heritage being restructured.
However, it is hoped Lincoln Cathedral Connected can combine with other city projects – including the construction of a Magna Carta centre at the castle – to ramp up tourism and generate the money needed to look after the city’s most prominent building. The vision could be made a reality if a £10 million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is successful and another £2 million is secured.
Anne Irving, trusts and communications officer at the cathedral, said: “We have a huge financial burden – just for the conservation of the fabric, English Heritage has estimated we need £1.6 million a year, and that’s only for the basics. But by putting this project together, we can bring some of those elements into it, otherwise they could take years to complete.
“We are dependent on a lot of extra support from investments and donations and so we really need to respond to that with something quite drastic, because we have been affected by the financial climate like everyone else.
“This project should make us more financially buoyant.”
The cathedral currently has around 180,000 visitors every year, but only 42 per cent pay for entry. This is partially because people are not charged for entry to its popular services or on Sundays, but bosses say more needs to be done to increase visitor numbers.
An initial bid is being put together and will be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in November. In April next year project leaders will be told if they have received cash that will allow them to create more detailed proposals.
The plans include adding a shop and a larger cafe.
A new visitor and education centre would be built next door to the cathedral with space to display historical artefacts that are not currently available for the public to see.
The stone carvings above the main entrance on the west side – including the Gallery of Kings – would also be restored, as well as the Exchequergate Arch opposite.
It is hoped the space surrounding the cathedral can be opened up, with more green areas to the north, west and south and a “medieval garden” planted on the north side.
New technology, such as a mobile phone app, could be used to make it easier for visitors to explore the building.
The portfolio of properties that circle the cathedral would also be restored to their former glory. Chief executive Phil Hamlyn Williams said: “It’s very exciting. The most important thing is that visitors are able to experience this astonishing building.
“It’s something I don’t think you can experience anywhere else. We want as many people to experience it as possible.”
Details of the project are being presented to guests at the sold-out Historic Lincoln Conference at Bishop Grosseteste University on Thursday, September 5.
Lincoln-based planning firm Globe Consultants, in Westgate, has been working closely with the church to identify options for the development.
It is also assessing the economic impact of Lincoln Cathedral Connected.
Russell Wallis, a director at the company, said: “I think everyone involved says it is significant step change.
“At the moment all the departments within the cathedral are saying ‘we can do more’ and it’s really a sense of ‘we can do this’.
“Everyone wants to get on show some of the amazing things that you can’t see at the moment because they are under a tarpaulin or in a loft.
“It’s a beautiful, historic place and the ambition is to do much more with it.”
It costs more than £3 million a year to run the building, and of this the cathedral has to raise £1.5 million itself.