England

St Paul's Cathedral 'may reopen' despite protest camp

St Paul's 'hopeful' of reopening

St Paul's Cathedral could reopen to the public on Friday, despite the protest camp outside the building.

The Dean of St Paul's, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, said he was optimistic about reopening after changes to the camp set up by the Occupy London Stock Exchange group.

Demonstrators have vowed to remain at the site for several weeks.

The cathedral was closed last Friday over fears of "significant issues" with health and safety.

The Dean said: "A passageway allowing evacuation procedures to be improved has been created.

"The kitchen providing food for those in the camp has been moved from close proximity to the building, bicycles chained to the railings have been shifted and a clear pathway restored.

"We will revisit the risk assessment in the light of any overnight developments and, subject to us getting the green light, we hope to reopen in time for the 12:30 Eucharist on Friday."

'Minefield'

The cathedral claimed it has been losing £20,000 a day since the camp was set up 11 days ago.

The Occupy London Stock Exchange (OLSX) group is protesting against corporate greed and inequality.

Earlier London's mayor joined the Bishop of London in calling for the demonstrators to move on.

Boris Johnson said: "With the greatest respect to their point of view, they have made it."

The Bishop of London said the demonstration had raised a number of very important questions but that the time had come for the protesters to leave.

But Tim Williams, from OLSX, said they had been working with the church authorities to move tents, reconfigure barriers and relocate the camp's kitchen to facilitate the reopening.

He said the organisers and officials were "all working together".

A decision as to whether the cathedral will reopen is expected on Thursday.

On Friday, the City of London Corporation's planning committee is due to hear legal advice and decide whether to take court action against the demonstrators.

In response to this Mr Williams said: "It's a minefield on the basis of who owns the land. It's a minefield on the fact that we have rights.

"We have British rights to make comment and we have European rights to make comment.

"They're welcome to use their rights to try and stop us. We are quite clear where our situation is at."

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