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Richard III: cathedral tomb dispute continues

22 November 2013


APPROVAL for the reordering of Leicester Cathedral to accommodate the tomb of Richard III has been postponed until after a High Court ruling that could affect where the King should be buried (News, 27 September).

The Cathedrals Fabrics Commission for England (CFCE) had been due to make a decision last month on the £1.3-million proposal for a Yorkshire limestone tomb in the cathedral's chancel, but agreed to defer consideration until after the judicial review hearing next Tuesday. The High Court will hear a claim, from supporters of a burial site in York Minster, that the original exhumation and interment process was flawed.

In a statement issued on Monday of last week, the CFCE said: "Until this has taken place, there is no certainty over where the remains of Richard III will be buried. Without this certainty, the CFCE could not give permission for internal building works which included a tomb space."

It also pointed out that there were concerns that the reordering involved alterations to a wooden screen installed in 1927 by the architect Sir Charles Nicholson. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Victorian Society, and the Twentieth Century Society have all expressed reservations.

The Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd David Monteith, said: "Leicester Cathedral recognises the complexity of the case the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England is having to deal with, and therefore understands why, at this juncture, the Commission failed to reach a verdict on our comprehensively researched proposals for a tomb for King Richard III as part of a major reordering of the cathedral.

"We are disappointed, but we appreciate that it is rare for a major application of this kind to be approved at the first discussion, owing to its complex nature.

"We continue to have confidence in the proposals we have submitted, but recognise that such important matters often need more than one formal consideration before agreement can be reached that the scheme is right for all purposes. The Chapter is convinced that the design is the right one for the Cathedral.

"It is estimated that the works necessary to provide the tomb and its place of honour will take six months, so this development does appear to rule out a reinterment date before summer 2014 at the earliest.

"We have consistently stated that final decisions must await the outcome of the judicial review and we fully respect that legal process. We remain committed to continuing our collaborative preparations to prepare for a dignified and timely reinterment of King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral."

The chairman of the CFCE, Frank Field MP, said: "The case at Leicester has raised national interest and excitement. However, it is the job of the CFCE to look at each case on its own merits and consider the impact of proposed works on the heritage values of the building and on the primary purpose of all as centres for Christian worship and mission."

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