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Wakefield Cathedral and its VAT bill

by
11 April 2012

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From Mr John Roberts

Sir, — With regard to the report (News, 30 March) “Outcry as Church faces £20-million extra VAT bill”, I was interested to read about the “catastrophic consequences” for the alterations (I am careful here to avoid the word “restoration”) of Wakefield Cathedral.

Key to the report is the point about “a perverse incentive to carry out more changes to a listed building than were necessary”. This is undoubtedly the case at Wakefield.

Wiser counsels have advised that the more controversial aspects of the project, such as the removal of the George Gilbert Scott pews, be put on hold for a future date, and the work could concentrate on the more essential aspects, such as new heating and lighting. The pews still have years of life left in them, but have now been removed and sold.

Wakefield Cathedral clergy have decided to forge ahead with the full project. We can now see the consequences of their doing so.

PR statements about a “terrible tragedy for our nation’s rich and varied heritage” and the “obligation to ensure the highest standards of care, including expensive materials and experienced craftsmen” by the cathedral clergy leave a somewhat sour taste. There has been a very high-handed attitude to any criticism or well-meant advice about the Wakefield project.

JOHN ROBERTS
12 St John’s Court
St John’s, Wakefield
Yorkshire WF1 2RY

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