New look for historic palace

Brian Dooks DETAILED plans were unveiled yesterday for the first refurbishment in 30 years of Bishopthorpe Palace, the official residence for Archbishops of York since the 13th century.

Dr John Sentamu, who this week is living in a tent in York Minster praying and fasting for peace between Israel and Lebanon, has temporary accommodation in a house in Bishopthorpe, near York.

Bishopthorpe Palace, which stands beside the River Ouse, south of the city, was built by Archbishop Grey in 1226 and the chapel was added in 1241.

Now the Church Commissioners have submitted plans to York Council for the refurbishment of the Grade I listed building, although the cost has not been disclosed.

The work includes improving living and office accommodation and ensuring it meets current disability access and health and safety regulations.

Secretary to the Church Commissioners Andrew Brown said: "Our plans are aimed at providing a modern and appropriate base for the ministry of the current Archbishop and his successors.

"No major work has been carried out at Bishopthorpe for 30 years. The accommodation for the Archbishop needs to be reordered to provide privacy for him and his family and it is intended to bring back into productive use areas of the building that have been previously disused."

English Heritage has been consulted on the scheme. Listed building consent and planning permission are being sought for work which includes a self-contained flat for the Archbishop and his family.

The Church Commissioners are also upgrading the electrical systems and renewing a water main, improving public spaces, providing a low-energy heating system and removing asbestos and a defunct oil heating system.

While the work is being carried out incoming water and power services will be moved so that they are no longer threatened when the River Ouse reaches flood levels.

Policy and decisions concerning bishops' houses are made by the Church Commissioners. Expenditure is from the Church Commissioners' own funds, to which parishes make no contribution.

The Archbishop will continue to live in temporary accommodation until the work, which will take about 18 months, has been completed.

The project will be put out to tender if planning permission is obtained.