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The Dean’s Weekly Message – 17th March 2024 Posted on Saturday 16 March 2024

Fifth Sunday of Lent

The last nine months have been a rather stressful time for the clergy and staff within the Cathedral with building work and repairs taking place on three fronts. The first floor of Cathedral House has recently been renovated to provide suitable accommodation for the four priests serving at the Cathedral to live within the one building. This accommodation had been largely unaltered other than decoration since it was first built in the sixties. Both the clergy and office staff have had to continue working within a partial building site for the last five months, I am grateful for their patience and forbearance during this time. Thankfully this project is now complete, other than the rectifying of faults, and the clergy are all in their new digs and settling into the changed environment.

In the lead up to the organ renovation works of the last few years the ordinary access to climb into the instrument for tuning was declared unsafe and unusable according to current health and safety regulations. Since the completion of the works we have had to cope with scaffolding being erected every time there is a need to access the organ pipes. A new solution has now been finally approved by the statutory authorities and a platform will be erected at height on each side of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to provide safe and acceptable long term access. This work is due to take place later in April.

Since the end of October the initial work to strip out the Piazza Visitor centre and check the extent of damage to the building has been on hold. For the last few months the boarded up site has been left open to the weather with nothing happening. Every day people are asking what is going to happen to the site and up until now I haven’t been able to give anyone a definitive answer as to whether the building would be repaired and returned back to how it was or whether a bigger scheme was to take place to provide more facilities from the street level leading up to the Cathedral. The plain white hoardings have now been blighted by the scourge of graffiti and are now looking untidy. The Diocesan Trustees have recently approved a concept scheme for a larger welcome centre which takes the visitor to the Cathedral from the street level at the corner of Mount Pleasant up to the lower foyer in the Cathedral. Within this larger centre the Cathedral would be able to provide a more straightforward accessible route from the street level to Cathedral, a more coordinated welcome to visitors, a café with a garden outlook, larger gift shop and other facilities. This will be a much more exciting project than the replacement/repair of the existing visitor centre. The downsides are that it will cost considerably more with the Cathedral being desperately short of funds and it will take longer to completion. The end result will be a much improved set of facilities that will be worthy of our unique and much visited Cathedral and provide suitable facilities that will last long into the future. Some initial works will start to take place on site soon in preparation for the full planning application later in the year.

Canon Anthony O’Brien
Cathedral Dean