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Report calls for church to use Lambeth Palace to generate revenue

The Archbishop of Canterbury's London residence at Lambeth Palace could be turned into a self-financing conference centre under cost-cutting measures proposed this week.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's London residence at Lambeth Palace could be turned into a self-financing conference centre under cost-cutting measures proposed this week.

The suggestion comes in a report from a report entitled Resourcing Archbishops, produced by a committee chaired by Professor Anthony Mellows which looked at the living arrangements for the Church of England's two archbishops.

According to the report, Lambeth Palace has areas that are "grossly" underused. Mellows also proposed reforms to generate revenue to cover all costs at the palace.

Lambeth Palace costs 500,000 a year to run on average, although it was higher last year at 594,000, including 242,000 on staff costs. The main palace building contains three state rooms, two chapels, the Great Hall, four flats, and studies for the Archbishop and the Bishop at Lambeth. Outside there are two towers, eight cottages – one for the head gardener – and 6.3 acres of gardens.

The archbishop and his wife live in a flat added to Lambeth Palace in the 19th century, which the report said lacked privacy and fell far short of modern standards.

The committee even considered the drastic option of selling the palace, but found that it would be cheaper for the Church to keep the building and use it to generate income.

His report proposes turning part of the palace into a conference centre or "commercial hospitality" suite while allowing the archbishop and others to continue living there and using the state rooms for up to 40 per cent of the year.

The report suggests that the venture could pay for the running costs of the palace within five years, although the proposal would inevitably change the ethos of the historic building.

Flats in Lollards Tower within the Palace are let rent-free at present; one suggestion is to rent them at market rates.

A commendation in the recent Civic Trust awards went to the Lambeth Palace Courtyard Project. This skilful adaptation inside the ancient palace has created an elegant visitor space and access to the fine 13th century crypt, once hidden away from public view. Working closely with Lambeth Council's conservation officer, architects Richard Griffiths ingeniously wove the best of contemporary architecture into the historic fabric of the medieval and Tudor edifice.

Parts of the palace have been opened to visitors this year as part of the String of Pearls Festival, but all the tours have already sold out.

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