Hundreds behind £18m Bath Abbey facelift
Hundreds of people have been rallying in support of an £18 million scheme to modernise facilities at Bath Abbey.
There have been more than 300 letters of support for the abbey's Footprint development, which is currently being looked at by council planners.
A new survey of the congregation at the historic church has also shown overwhelming backing for the plans to open up extra space at vault level, and create new toilets, meeting areas and a heating system which exploits energy from the city's hot springs.
The application, based on designs by Bath architects Feilden Clegg, has been backed by the city's chamber of commerce, other local clergy, Bath Festivals, historian Dr John Wroughton, and former Tory minister Lord Cope, who lives in the city.
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There has been particular backing for better disabled toilet facilities, new catering areas and meeting rooms.
The church is open seven days a week, welcomes more than 400,000 visitors a year, and is the second largest venue in the city for concerts, but has only one disabled toilet and a small kitchen.
The survey has also revealed backing for the creation of better arrangements for the abbey's choirs, with one respondent saying: "We have a world class choir with inadequate facilities."
Project director Charles Curnock said: "We want to open the church out and make it more accessible for everybody, but such is the growing demand on this magnificent medieval building that its very fabric is beginning to strain. We are aware that the abbey, blessed with superb architecture and heritage, is a great resource for Christian mission. We are also aware that with little or no change, the abbey will become increasingly impractical for its busy programme of services and events.
"The addition of much- needed space will greatly enhance the abbey's ability to serve the community, and provide a strong legacy for future generations."
The planning application is being opposed by both Bath Heritage Watchdog and the Bath Preservation Trust.
BHW said: "Overall we are disappointed in the whole application and shocked at the idea that the amount of alteration and loss of historic fabric and character would be considered acceptable by those who have stewardship as a public responsibility. It would appear in places to be a case of trying to retrofit the abbey into a concert hall and conference centre."
The trust said it supported the idea of reusing the abbey's spaces more effectively, but said changes to Kingston Buildings were unacceptable.