Leicester City Council is to loan almost £1m to Leicester Cathedral to help enable it to create a new Heritage Learning Centre.
The cathedral has raised more than £9million of the £11.3m it needs to carry out the ambitious Leicester Cathedral Revealed project, which in addition to repairs to the historic fabric, will create a new heritage centre beside the main building with exhibition, interpretation and learning spaces telling the story of the 2,000-year-old site.
Since the reinternment of King Richard III, the cathedral and the city have experienced a sharp rise in visitor numbers, and the project is designed to provide an improved visitor experience while protecting the historic setting of the cathedral and Cathedral Gardens.
Leicester City Council has therefore agreed to make up to £950k available as a loan to the cathedral, to ensure the work can begin in 2020 and continue on schedule and on budget, with the aim of completing the entire project by 2022.
The city council is proposing making the money available to the cathedral from its reserves, at a rate of four percent interest per annum, to be repaid in 2024. After taking into account other repayments, the loan will produce £14k a year surplus for the city council.
The loan comes under the city council’s Investment Strategy, which was set out in February 2019, and includes property investments and other loans to third parties where doing so would promote economic development and benefit the city.
Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Leicester Cathedral is at the heart of both the city and county, and the Leicester Cathedral Revealed project will benefit not only Cathedral Gardens and the surrounding public realm, but also build further on the tourism boom the city has experienced following the King Richard III story.
“It makes sense for us to make this loan available, to ensure the cashflow is there when the cathedral needs it. It also means we get a better return on our investment than we would do by relying on the tiny levels of interest accumulated by leaving this money in our reserves, which we are otherwise obliged to do.
“I’m very pleased that we are in the position to make this investment in one of the city’s best known landmark buildings and resting place of King Richard III.”
In welcoming the council’s support, the Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester, added: “It’s very important to both cathedral and city that this project succeeds and I cannot overstate the importance of having the funding available to allow us to start work. We don’t expect to make use of this loan facility until 2021.
“In fact, we will be making every effort to ensure we don’t need to use it at all because we are doing everything we can to raise the final £2.3m before then.”
Leicester Cathedral secured National Lottery Heritage Funding (NLHF) back in 2017 to enable the project design, development and to kick-start a wider fund-raising strategy, resulting in a £3.3m NLHF grant. A total of £9million has now been secured by the cathedral.
Source : Leicester City Council News