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Controversial cathedral consultation to come to an end

St Magnus Cathedral.

A consultation on controversial plans to improve the main entrance at St Magnus Cathedral comes to an end this week.

A final event takes place at 7pm at the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, on Wednesday, August 7 — a chance for cathedral users and the wider Orkney public to hear about the main points and questions raised since the consultation was launched in early July.

The proposed work which involves creating wheelchair access to the cathedral’s west door saw a backlash by users of the Facebook group “Have A Moan Orkney” last month.

A number of commentators claimed that the consultation was just for show and that Orkney Islands Council had already made the decision “behind closed doors”.

The overwhelming view was that, as the heart of the county’s cultural heritage and as property of the people of Orkney, no changes affecting the cathedral should be made without the majority approval of citizens.

Councillor John Ross Scott waded into the debate, stating he was “sick and tired of the ill-informed, scandalous, near libelous and definitely hurtful comments” on the page.

He added: “Social media in my view — if used responsibly — can be a power for good and should be. We must all try to use it responsibly. The latest vitriolic remarks against non-Orcadians and tourists, regarding the access improvements to the Cathedral, are a good example.”

The work would see the existing flagstones being raised with a slope running from the south side to provide access for all at the main entrance.

This would be the only change to the cathedral externally, say the council. The outer wooden doors leading into the cathedral will remain in place and will in turn lead to a new internal entrance vestibule created from oak and glass.

The proposals have been scrutinised at a council level and by the Society of the Friends of St Magnus Cathedral — the group responsible for raising funds for the upkeep of the historic landmark and who will be footing most of the bill.

Councillor Scott claimed that the latter group had shown unaminous support for the plans.

Feedback from the consultation will be reported to a future meeting of Orkney Islands Council’s St Magnus Cathedral sub-committee before final decisions on the proposed work are made.

More information is available here.

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