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'People's Steeple' plan for ChristChurch Cathedral

Published: 6:21AM Monday May 28, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Heritage campaigners outlined a $55 million plan to restore ChristChurch Cathedral after thousands of protesters took to the streets to save the Anglican Church at the weekend.

It was also revealed that Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has given campaign leaders access to the crippled building and a chance to produce an alternative option for its fate.

A protest rally of more than 2000 people marched to the central city cordon at Worcester Boulevard on Saturday, calling on the Anglican Church to immediately halt demolition work on the cathedral. Past and present civic leaders, MPs and other high-profile Christchurch residents took part, and former MP and rally organiser Jim Anderton said 100 engineers had confirmed the cathedral could be saved.

The rally came on the same day an opinion poll, commissioned by The Press, showed that the fate of the Anglican Cathedral had divided the region, with 54% of those polled favouring demolition and 42% calling for it to be saved.

Following the protest, an American expert delivered a "cost-effective" restoration option for the heritage building and its spire.

Marcus Brandt, who has been restoring historic structures for 30 years, said the cathedral was the most controversial heritage project he had ever worked on.

"Anywhere in the world this would be a no-brainer. It wouldn't be in the news headlines because it would just be restored," he said.

Brandt told a 50-strong crowd at the Court Theatre yesterday of his restoration design, "The People's Steeple".

In his plans, an "earthquake-resistant timber spire" the same size and shape as the original, would be erected in three sections like an extending telescope. The spire would be hoisted into place by thousands of Cantabrians and would be "therapeutic" for the city.

He also offered restoration plans for the "wounded", but not shattered, cathedral. By shoring it up from the outside and slowly securing and tightening the stones from the bottom up, he believed the building could be restored to its former glory without anyone having to go inside.

He estimated the project would cost up to $55m and said it could be completed "with the bells ringing" by 2014, the third anniversary of the earthquake.

After Brandt's speech, Anderton announced that Brownlee had invited him to inspect the Cathedral with his core advisers.

Anderton, a member of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, said the "unsolicited offer" came late last week and would give the group a chance to "come forward with an alternative option" for the Cathedral's fate.

He thanked Brownlee for his "willingness to hear other viewpoints" and he hoped the Anglican Church would follow suit. The inspection was likely to take place this week, he said.

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