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Protesters oppose Durham Chapter's land plans

06 June 2014

ROBERT LAMB

Target: the East Rainton land owned by Durham Cathedral Chapter

Target: the East Rainton land owned by Durham Cathedral Chapter

CAMPAIGNERS have launched an online petition calling on the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene in plans by his former cathedral in Durham to develop land owned by the Chapter.

Protesters say that the building of 96 "executive" homes in the village of East Rainton, near Sunderland, will destroy its character, and mean the loss of a much used open space.

Durham Cathedral Chapter owns 4.5 acres of the 11-acre site; the rest is held by Croxdale Farms. Several residents have lodged objections with Sunderland City Council's planners, and one, Robert Lamb, has set up an online petition in which he asks the former Bishop of Durham the Most Revd Justin Welby, now Archbishop of Canterbury, to step in.

Mr Lamb estimates that the site is worth about £3 million. "The Dean and Chapter are selling the land to pay the running costs of Durham Cathedral, and I don't think it's the most ethical way of raising that money," he said.

"Durham gets around 600,000 visitors a year. I don't see why, like York Minster, they can't charge £10 per adult. Even if they only paid a fiver, it's not rocket science to see how much they could raise. If the plans do go through, then I won't set foot in Durham Cathedral again."

East Rainton has Saxon origins, and the disputed site has been in the cathedral's ownership since medieval times.

The outline planning application is due to be considered by Sunderland City Council next Wednesday.

In his petition - which is also addressed to the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and the General Synod - Mr Lamb describes himself as "a great admirer, visitor, and supporter of Durham Cathedral", and a "confirmed member of the Church of England".

"However, their application to build on this protected land is a step too far for my Christian conscience to support any idea of ploughing up a beautiful landscape," he writes.

The Chapter Clerk of Durham Cathedral, Philip Davies, responded: "Money raised from any sale of land supports the upkeep of the cathedral itself, and helps ensure there is no entry fee to the cathedral church. It is believed that Durham is the only large medieval cathedral in the country not to charge for admission, and the Chapter is committed to that policy.

"Sunderland has a large shortfall in the provision of housing stock, and it will be Sunderland City Council's decision whether or not the current application meets its planning objectives."

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