Romsey Abbey is confident it can raise £4 million needed to press ahead with an ambitious scheme to preserve the ancient building.

Church bosses want to enhance part of the South Garth and the Church Rooms in a bid to protect the Saxon Rood and also provide more facilities to attract visitors and worshippers.

In a survey conducted by the abbey, 80 per cent of of people interviewed believed that £4 million was an “achievable” sum.

The abbey says several local organisations and individuals would be interested in supporting a fund-raising campaign and that there was “immense love” for the town’s landmark building, which is Hampshire’s biggest parish church.

Romsey’s vicar, the Rev Tim Sledge said: “The proposed development will enable the abbey to be of better service to our community, while providing a high standard of educational and visitor experience.”

The two main aims of the proposed development are the protection of the rare and ancient Saxon Rood (cross) in the South Garth, which is currently exposed to the elements and making the chapel in the North Apsidal, currently used for choir practice, into a place of silent reflection and prayer.

The choirs would be moved into a purpose-built song room.

Proposals on the table also include a redevelopment of Church Rooms and the upgrade of education and visitor facilities at the abbey.

Mr Sledge stressed that the scheme was still at the pre-planning stage and added: “The project must be sustainable as it will be the biggest building development for the abbey in hundreds of years, so we need to get it right for future generations, as well as for now.”

He added: “I feel very much that this is a building for the whole of the community and beyond. There is a sense of ownership of the abbey as part of the precious heritage of this town which is not just to be preserved, but enhanced for a fast moving and growing community and for the expectation of tourists who come here and whose expectations change and grow all the time.”

Romsey Abbey Parochial Church Council (PCC) is due to meet on April 12 to review the results of a feasibility study in detail before deciding on the next steps.

If a decision is made to proceed, the project will require volunteers who may be interested in being part of the fund-raising campaign or communications team. Anyone with skills in these areas is asked to contact Rob Gower via the Parish Office: parishoffice@rom Any development scheme will go out to a wider community consultation.