THE NEXT phase of the £1.7 million restoration of “Brighton’s Cathedral” could be completed by Christmas - but it will only reveal a further three meters of the grade II*listed tower.

St Peter’s Church are hopeful of good news from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) on a bid which would allow restoration work on the 189-year-old tower to resume this summer.

But lovers of the building will have to be patient to see it free from its £240,000-a-year scaffolding as vicar Archie Coates has warned the project could go on for years.

The church said only by removing the scaffolding will the building feel open to the public and allow the city to regain its unofficial cathedral.

In the meantime, the church is trying to make the best of the situation by extending its permission to have advertising on the scaffolding with revenues going towards the heritage project.

Consent for the advertising is due to expire in June but a planning application seeks to extend that by another year.

The church faced closure in 2009 in the face of a dwindling congregation and a £1 million repair bill but has undergone an amazing transformation since a team were “planted” in to run the church which now operates community services around the clock and welcomes 800 worshippers to Sunday service.

Around £1 million of repairs have already been carried out to waterproof, secure masonry and to improve heating and lighting.

Rev Coates said: “When we took the church on we know there was a problem with the tower, there has been security fencing around it ever since I have known it.

“We knew we had to fix the interior first and make it waterproof but what anyone did not quite realise until we sent someone up there was what a big job it was.

“Every stone has to be inspected to see whether it can be restored or replaced.”

Part of the restoration will include replacing three sets of damaged wooden doors with glazed doors to create “a light box in the heart of the city” to display artwork telling the story of the building designed by the Houses of Parliament architect Sir Charles Barry.

The restoration bid has been funded through the congregation, Sussex Historical Churches Fund and the HLF.

Rev Coates said: “The HLF has a pot that we are applying for where they give grants of up to £250,000 a year but we can only go to them once a year. We have just heard that we are through to the second round of our second application and if that happens we will have people back on site by mid-summer so that by Christmas another two to three metres of the tower will be exposed from the top.”