Council thwarts Guildford Cathedral’s endowment plan

24 February 2017

GUILDFORD CATHEDRAL

Scaffolding: repairs are being carried out in Guildford Cathedral, as part of the People’s Cathedral Project

Scaffolding: repairs are being carried out in Guildford Cathedral, as part of the People’s Cathedral Project

THE future of Guildford Cathedral was thrown into jeopardy last week after long-term plans to sell off a nearby housing development to pay for its upkeep were rejected by the council.

The cathedral, which was built between 1936 and 1961, announced a seven-year strategy for fundraising and investment, four years ago. It included plans to release an area of currently unused land on Stag Hill — adjacent to the cathedral — to develop social and private housing (News, September 2013).

But a planning application to build 134 homes on the hill was rejected by Guildford Borough Council (GBC), on Thursday of last week, because of concerns from residents that the proposed development was “out of character” with the surrounding area, and of poor quality, Surrey News reported. Only one councillor spoke in favour of the application.

The Dean of Guildford Cathedral, the Very Revd Dianna Gwilliams, reportedly told the meeting: “There is no plan B. We welcome more than 90,000 people a year and the running cost of the building is immense. We believe the development proposal is the only way to raise the necessary endowment.”

Dean Gwilliams declined to comment for the Church Times this week, however, until the Reasons for Refusal Notification were given and “the next steps” could be decided.

A spokesman for the cathedral said in a statement on Thursday of last week: “Clearly we are disappointed by the decision reached by GBC. As trustees, Guildford Cathedral Chapter have a responsibility to consider all options open to securing the cathedral’s long-term future. We will carefully consider the reasons for refusal before deciding the next steps.”

He said on Wednesday: “The situation has not changed since then. The Chapter will be considering its next steps once the refusal note is received from Guildford Borough Council.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury had also supported the proposal in a letter to the council, a spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace confirmed. Archbishop Welby wrote that a cathdral had “social and economic benefits” for the area.

Guildford Cathedral is used as a community venue as well as a night shelter and foodbank for homeless people.

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