Lincoln Cathedral has defended plans to install railings around its 13th Century Gallilee porch after being accused of failing to offer sanctuary to rough sleepers.
The corporate body of Lincoln Cathedral applied to the City of Lincoln Council saying people congregating in the historic building’s Galilee Porch had caused fires, taken drugs and vandalised the fabric of the masonry for years.
They want to build the 1.4m high fence along the pavement across the porch and up to the south east corner of the Consistory Court.
However, some people have accused them of acting unchristian and not protecting the homeless people who use the porch.
Dean of Lincoln the Rev Christine Wilson, appeared on Radio 2 on Thursday, where she told host Jeremy Vine that the primary purpose of the railings was to improve safety on a side of the cathedral which is in some need of repair.
She explained survey works had found there was a risk of stone falling from the pinnacles and that there was already temporary fencing there to prevent people walking underneath.
“It’s about protecting all people from harm and some of our rough sleepers were camping under there last year, so obviously that would be really dangerous for them.
“There was a fire in there last year and obviously we have to think about the protection of this heritage building and [be cautious of] any Notre Dame situation.”
Rev Wilson added the Cathedral provided an “enormous” amount of support for homeless people, including providing places to sleep, wash, charge electronics and obtain clothes and bedding.
“We want to assure everyone that we do everything we can to support rough sleepers,” she said, telling Jeremy that the intention had been “misunderstood”.
She said work also included giving £21,000 to the local homeless charity Nomad Trust so far this year.
However Matt Downie, Chief Executive of Homeless Charity Crisis, hit out at any architectural designs that deterred rough sleepers from properties.
“There is a wider thing here which is the message this sends in Lincoln and elsewhere, which is ‘you’re subhuman, we don’t need you, we don’t want you anywhere near our nice buildings, they’re more important than you are’.”
He suggested the Cathedral should instead work with the council to organise additional housing and support rather than blocking off places rough sleepers felt safer staying.
He warned against an increase in “hostile architecture” designed to obscure or drive out of town rough sleepers.
Callers to Jeremy Vine’s show were mainly on the side of rough sleepers with “Steve from Lincoln” telling him that the cathedral were “really very keen for the great and good,” but “literally are locking the doors of the people actually need the most.”
Jason from Cambridgeshire, however, said the point was explained perfectly by Rev Wilson, adding “it’s been done for safety reasons, nothing else.”