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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Abbey plan to aid troubled town
Furness Abbey
The abbey is one of the finest examples of monastic architecture
Plans have been revealed to turn a Cumbrian abbey into a world-class visitor attraction supporting the regeneration of the region.

Furness Abbey is one of the finest surviving examples of monastic architecture in the country.

Consultants are considering how to bring together the existing ruins, the amphitheatre in which they stand and Abbots Wood area into one attraction.

The abbey is referred to in William Wordsworth's Prelude of 1805.

Consultants will also look at the possibility of reopening the Furness Abbey railway station, closed in 1950.

The plans were launched on Thursday by a partnership including English Heritage, Barrow Borough Council, West Lakes Renaissance, Community Action Furness, Cumbria Tourist Board and local landowner Lord Cavendish.

Retain tranquillity

They first met last summer to see whether development of the abbey and its surroundings could be linked to the economic rebirth of Barrow following the decline of its shipbuilding industry.

Last week BAE Systems announced another 720 jobs were to be lost in the town.

Consultants will look at improving access to the abbey while retaining the tranquillity of the site - which is a favourite of the Prince of Wales

They will also examine ways of encouraging visitors to arrive by bus, train, cycle or on foot.

Michael Baker, of West Lakes Renaissance, said: "Furness Abbey, with its long and fascinating history and beautiful location, has the potential to significantly improve the image of Barrow and play an important part in encouraging new investment and job creation in the town.

"We wholeheartedly support this initiative."

Malcolm Cooper, North West Director of English Heritage, said the abbey had the potential to become a world-class site.

He said: "If the various elements within the original abbey enclosure can be combined we can create an inspirational place for visitors and local people alike."

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