Cathedral tower is taking shape

A GIGANTIC 80-tonne crane will soon be the first thing visitors notice as they arrive in west Suffolk town.The machine is being brought into Bury St Edmunds as work on St Edmundsbury Cathedral's crowning 150ft Millennium tower nears completion.

A GIGANTIC 80-tonne crane will soon be the first thing visitors notice as they arrive in west Suffolk town.

The machine is being brought into Bury St Edmunds as work on St Edmundsbury Cathedral's crowning 150ft Millennium tower nears completion.

With just over 20ft left to build, preparations into the complex job of putting a roof on the structure are well under way.

As the fifth year of building work continues, project co-ordinator Euan Allen spoke of his excitement as the £12.3 project on the UK's only unfinished cathedral reaches a conclusion.

Mr Allen said: "The tower is about 150ft high so we will need a gigantic crane and this is the next major part of the work.

"Stonework and brickwork has been positioned inside the tower and work on the roof will start over the next few weeks but it will be dependent on the weather.

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"Once the roof is in place, the work will be a little bit easier but we cannot totally relax."

Exact details about how the roof will be installed are unclear, but one expert revealed that visitors and residents are in for quite a spectacle.

Dave Boyle, depot manager for Ipswich-based crane hire firm Quinto , said: "Constructing the roof won't be a hard job but it is quite complex and you have to plan it well, which I am sure has happened with the Cathedral.

"We have hired out cranes for the Cathedral project and I think they will need an 80 tonne crane which can reach heights of just over 200ft.

"It will be a spectacular sight for residents and shoppers in Bury St Edmunds and I am sure they can't wait to see it happen. It will be a big day for everyone connected to the project."

Running alongside the work on the tower is the building of new cloisters, which will finally complete the ten-year project early next year.

After initially looking doubtful because of funding problems, the cloisters, which provide a covered route between the main building and the cathedral centre, are finally taking shape thanks to more than £500,000 in Lottery funding.

"The most important thing now starting on the site is the work on the new cloisters on the east side," Mr Allen admitted.

"This is a result of additional Millennium Commission money and it is a program which has now started and will go on for the rest of the year.

"We are very glad for this latest element of the work and it is something we wanted seven or eight years ago. It is miraculous that it has all worked out in the end."

Mr Allen has pencilled in an official opening next year and rumours continue that tower patron Prince Charless, who visited the Cathedral last year, could agree to do the job. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Rowan Williams, could also be set to visit the completed cathedral.

Mr Allen added: "It has been a long hard slog but there is now some encouraging progress. We are still on schedule and should finish the building work by August."

"We are then looking to have an official opening in the middle of 2005.

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