THE Lindisfarne Gospels may be returning to the North- East as early as next year – but it will only be temporary.

In a major shift in policy, the British Library Board yesterday accepted the recommendation of a group of world experts that the priceless manuscript could be loaned to a North-East institution.

The decision to allow the Gospels to be loaned out for up to three months every seven years was welcomed by a group set up to discuss the Gospel’s future with the British Library.

Among the sites suggested is a proposed visitor centre at Durham City’s Palace Green.

Durham University Vice- Chancellor Professor Chris Higgins said: “We are very pleased that the British Library has recommended the Gospels should be displayed regularly in the North- East.

“We look forward to working with the library to assess the potential for a more permanent British Library centre for the display of the Gospels in their spiritual home, where for centuries they resided alongside St Cuthbert and were a focus of pilgrimage.”

However, Northumbrian Association treasurer John Danby said he was disappointed the British Library Board had ruled out a permanent return.

Written in the Eighth Century to record the legend of St Cuthbert, the patron saint of Northumbria, the Gospels were kept in Durham Cathedral until seized by Henry VIII in 1537 and taken to London.

When the Gospels were last on display in the region, at the Laing Gallery in Newcastle in 2000, an estimated 200,000 people viewed them. But, following a condition report in 2004, the British Library board decided – on conservation grounds – the book should not be loaned again for 15 to 20 years.

Following his appointment as chairman of the British Library in 2006, Sir Colin Lucas met a delegation of North-East MPs and gave an undertaking to review the report.

Their recommendations were accepted by the board yesterday.

Sir Colin said: “This is an excellent outcome for the North-East.”

Fellow board member, Sir Kenneth Calman, who is also a former Chancellor of Durham University, said: “I am delighted. For someone who knows the North-East well, this is great news for me.”