The Cheshire West and Chester Executive Council has given the go-ahead for a £7.5m project that will bring major changes to the Chester Cathedral. The council will now issue a tender for a single contractor to oversee the first phase of the “Cathedral at Height” project.
“Cathedral at Height” aims to convert the medieval tower into a unique viewing gallery. The council hopes to ‘open-up’ the ideal city-centre setting for Chester’s top tourist attraction, plus add a new flexible stage in the Nave providing a venue seating between 1,200 -1,800.
The project was in doubt when the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) withdrew its funding offer of £3.75m in July .Councillor Herbert Manley, Executive Member for Prosperity, said, “The NWDA decision was certainly a setback but we are determined to proceed simply because this project is so important to the Cathedral and Chester.
“It has been said that the Cathedral is a hidden gem and we want to improve its setting to allow easier access to a wonderful historic building.”
Councillor Manley added, “An economic impact assessment estimates that the improvements will attract an extra 216,000 visitors a year to Chester and generate around £13.7m for the local economy. We will be phasing construction work and looking at all the options to fund this vital scheme.”
Fran Hulbert, Chair, Chester Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee, said, “Despite the recent reduction in funding available, the improved coherence of the Cathedral and its precinct with the wider environment of the city, remains a vital priority.
“Chester has a unique opportunity to bring together commercial, cultural, civic, archaeological, academic and spiritual interests. An appointed contractor needs to be aware of this integrated approach and be able to maximize the very considerable partnership potential.”
Chester Cathedral dates back to 1093, although the site itself may have been used for Christian worship since Roman times. All the major styles of English medieval architecture, from Norman to Perpendicular are represented in the present building.