Plans for a major re-development of the Catholic National Shrine at Walsingham in North Norfolk are to be reviewed after concerns were raised about its effect on the Grade I Listed Slipper Chapel and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on future visitor numbers and finances for the project.
The Trustees of the Catholic National Shrine have decided to withdraw its current planning application to North Norfolk Council in order to carry out a review of the plans.
The decision to look again at the development comes after the Diocese of East Anglia Historic Churches Committee expressed concern about the impact of the new development on the setting of the historic chapel and advised a rethink. Historic England also indicated reservations as part of the current planning process.
The Bishop of East Anglia, Alan Hopes, chairman of the Walsingham Trust, said: “We are very positive about the future of the Catholic National Shrine at Walsingham, which is a place of great devotion for around 250,000 Catholics and other pilgrims and visitors every year.
“The Trust seeks to both preserve the Shrine’s unique character and serve the needs of pilgrims whilst ensuring that it continues to make a positive contribution to the local community.
“There is no doubt that many of the current facilities do need to be improved and developed, but we must ensure that the solution to the practical problems of the Shrine do not harm its unique and special nature.
“The Trustees have listened to the many contributions to the recent application for planning consent and have decided to review the objectives of the project and potential options in the light of recent concerns,” said Bishop Hopes.
“The current Rector of the Shrine, Mgr John Armitage (who leaves at the end of August), has helped achieve tremendous things over the past five years, including its designation by Pope Francis as a Minor Basilica, the recent Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary, the development of accommodation facilities for pilgrims in nearby Walsingham itself and the huge growth of interest in the Shrine online through live streaming.”
Picture: The Slipper Chapel. (Alex Ramsey).