The Licence to Build, 1954
ON 31 July 1953, the Coventry Cathedral Act, modified in order to mitigate opposition from a faction within the Church of England, received the royal assent.1 Meanwhile the town clerk and city architect had been consulted about the repercussions for land usage and the street pattern in this area. The Reconstruction Committee therefore felt that the main obstacles to the scheme had been overcome; but they were to find progress blocked by a growing opposition to the cathedral scheme on the part of the City Council. Gibson was sympathetic to Spence's design, and modified his original plans for the area north of the old cathedral accordingly.2 However, Councillors were becoming increasingly indignant at the way in which their own plans for the redevelopment of the city centre were being hampered by lack of funds from central government. The cathedral scheme, funded by the War Damage Commission but subject to the system whereby licences had to be obtained for building work, seemed to them likely to enjoy preferential treatment. Early in 1953, the City Council initiated a vigorous campaign to postpone it, a campaign which was only resolved by the direct intervention of the Minister of Works.
The controversy illuminates the differences in attitude which emerged towards the cathedral project locally and nationally, as successive governments retreated from the promises of reconstruction which characterized the war years. Interesting differences in attitude towards the various new buildings planned for the post-war city also emerge. In the debate of 1953-4 over whether the cathedral should be allowed an earlier start than other public buildings, Spence's design was to play a significant part. The promoters of the cathedral scheme emphasized the traditional elements in his design in order to differentiate it--in terms of the materials____________________