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Coventry Cathedral awaits cathodic protection cash decision

Coventry Cathedral officials were this week anxiously awaiting a decision from conservation body English Heritage about the award of a grant to fund a pilot anti-­corrosion project.

English Heritage is due to fund half of a £70,000 pilot project that is planned to prevent one of the cathedral’s key buildings - the Chapel of Christ the Servant - falling into disrepair because of corrosion.

Funding for the pilot is to be split equally between English Heritage and the Church of England’s Cathedral Fabric Repair Fund - a nationwide body providing grants for improving churches.

The Joint Cathedral Committee has already provided half of the funding but although English Heritage has agreed to the funding in principle it has not formally signed-off the award of the grant.

Nothing guaranteed

“Until we have the money then nothing is guaranteed,” said Acanthus Clews partner and architect for the repairs Michael Clews. He expects a decision from English Heritage in the next couple of weeks.

The Cathedral’s Chapel of Christ the Servant is suffering from serious steel reinforcement corrosion within its 43, 15m tall precast concrete fins. The fins run to the full height of the chapel and are arranged in a circle on its outer perimeter.

The Westmoreland slates that clad the fins have been falling off since 2007, exposing the reinforcement and allowing carbon dioxide to enter concrete. This has led to the corrosion.

The cost of preventing further corrosion within the cathedral structure, could be as high as £800,000 but Clews hopes the pilot project could lead to a cheaper solution costing closer to £350,000. Coventry Cathedral was built between 1956 and 1960.

“We’re looking at installing cathodic protection on two fins to establish whether it will prevent further corrosion,” said Clews.

If it works, the pilot will establish where and how many anodes will be needed for each of the concrete fins for the full procedure, said Broomfield.

The Chapel was built after the original Cathedral was devastated in Second World War, and its corrosion problems are common with many structures built in this era, said Broomfield.

Costlier alternative

If the pilot scheme is unsuccessful, a more costly £800,000 project will be required to prevent further corrosion.

This will involve removing existing slate from all 43 fins, and using hydro-demolition to remove concrete so that the reinforcement can be treated with a new coating and the concrete and slate replaced.
It is hoped that the funding can be secured in time for the pilot project to begin in the summer.

“It will take three months to complete the project and a further three months to decide on the best course of action,” added Clews.

Officials are hoping to begin fundraising towards the end of the year once the total costs of the renovation are known.

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