Ambitious plans to regenerate Wymondham Abbey and make it a community asset and tourism destination were on display to the public for the first time on Saturday.

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The Abbey, which welcomes 20,000 people through its doors each year, is undertaking The Abbey Experience, a project to make the building more available to the community.

The Abbey Experience project passed the first round of the Heritage Lottery Fund in December 2011 when it was granted £168,000 to assist the development of plans.

The bid for the second round of funding, which could see the Abbey being given a £1.6m grant, was submitted on Wednesday.

The project aims to work with schools, colleges and businesses to welcome more people to the abbey while developing tourism links and improve signage around the town.

David Turner, a steward who attends the Sunday service every week, said: “I think that the plans are all wonderful, they meet all of the requirements and needs. A lot of things which can’t be seen now will be opened up. I haven’t heard anyone say a bad word about the proposals. Father Christopher has worked so hard.”

The developments could see the west doors opened for the first time since the 1950s, archived material being available to the public for the first time and hidden tablets unveiled.

Plans have also been drawn up to build new facilities such as rooms for learning and exhibitions, a kitchen and toilets.

Church warden Mike Halls said that if they were given the grant in March, the building work could start in 2014 and be finished by the end of the year.

Rosalind Johnson, director of A Different View, a research firm which helped with the bid, said: “If we are successful there will be hard hat days where people can come along and see what we are doing.

“We want to involve the community at every stage.”

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