A PROJECT to restore the bells of Great Malvern Priory moved a step closer to fruition this week, thanks to Malvern Town Council.

At its meeting on Tuesday, council members voted overwhelmingly to make a special grant of £5,000 to the Priory's appeal to restore the frame holding the bells.

The frame which holds the bells within the church tower is in very poor condition. It moves when the bells are rung, which makes the ringers' job more difficult and puts stress on the fabric of the tower itself.

The church needs a total of £220,000 to get the work done, which will include strengthening the frame and installing two new bells next to the existing nine. So far the appeal has raised all but £14,000

At Tuesday's town council meeting, Cllr Cynthia Palmer, who is also a member of the bell-ringing team, said: "We're very thankful that the Heritage Lottery Fund has just given us £90,000, and we're almost at our goal.

"I would like to ask the town council to show its support for the appeal by giving £5,000."

Cllr Clive Smith said: "It would be a tragedy for the town as a whole if the bells were to fall silent," and cllr Julian l'Anson described the sound of the bells as "the voice of Great Malvern".

Cllr Paul Tuthill said: "The priory is a strong supporter of the town council. It supports our Christmas events, it supports our remembrance events, and they're the church of the town centre."

The grant proposal was approved by 15 votes to one, and cllr Palmer thanked members, saying that the church will shortly be approaching contractors.