BROADCASTER Jeremy Vine was in the North-East over the weekend to support plans to dramatically improve one of the region’s best loved visitor attractions.

The 47-year-old presenter is a ‘champion’ of Durham Cathedral’s Open Treasure project, which aims to raise £10m to enhance the Norman architectural masterpiece.

Mr Vine, who studied English at Durham University, said: “I had a great time at Durham when I was a student here, and the cathedral is my favourite building in the world.

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“It can be seen from almost everywhere in the city dominating the skyline. It’s better than the Taj Mahal.”

The project involves significant work in the cathedral first built to meet the needs of the monks who lived there before the Reformation.

It is being designed to transform the way visitors can enjoy the cathedral and gain inspiration from it. Some elements of the project are complete, such as the opening of the new shop in November.

The next phase involves the creation of world class exhibition space and new interpretation of historic spaces in some of the Claustral buildings, the spaces around the Cathedral Cloister.

On Saturday, the cathedral gave visitors the chance to view the plans and give feedback with its Open Door – Open Treasure day.

Highlights from the cathedral’s collections of medieval manuscripts were on display along with a copy of the Magna Carta.

Mr Vine, who graduated from Hatfield College with a lower second class degree, but was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Law by the university last year, said: “I’ll be telling everyone I meet how fabulous the cathedral is and what its Open Treasure project will do.

“It’s great that plans are being made to open up parts of the cathedral not known to the wider public.

“The spaces themselves are stunning, such as the Monks’ Dormitory and the Great Kitchen, along with treasures like the Magna Carta that I’ve seen today.

“There is all of this, plus the Cuthbert ‘bling’, his Anglo-Saxon relics, and other amazing historic objects. It’s a privilege to become involved.”

The cathedral has already received a stage one pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for £3.5 million, which means HLF supports the project in principle and will welcome a more detailed application.

The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, said: “As we look to transform the way visitors experience the cathedral and gain inspiration from it, having someone of the status of Jeremy as an advocate will help raise the profile of this great project.

“The North-East has a long tradition of learning; Jeremy himself is an alumnus of Durham University and also an honorary graduate.

“We look forward to making our collections and historic spaces available to people of all ages for learning through exhibitions and new interpretation.

“We are delighted that Jeremy has kindly agreed to become a champion of our Open Treasure Project and we value his support.”