Public back Government financial support for church buildings

Published: Monday, February 6, 2017

 

57% of British adults agree that the Government should provide financial support to churches in order to protect their heritage and history, according to a new opinion poll commissioned by the National Churches Trust.

The ComRes opinion poll on attitudes to church heritage also shows that the British public back churches being available for community use, in addition to being used as places of worship.

Half of British adults (49%) say that churches, chapels and meeting houses should be used as community centres in addition to being used as places of worship. Just 7% of Britons say that churches, chapels and meeting houses should not have uses other than as a place of worship.

The findings come as the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review, commissioned by the Department of Culture Media and Sport and due to report in April 2017, is considering how best to finance the repair and maintenance of churches and cathedrals and to find ways of opening up church buildings for wider community, cultural and heritage use.

 Other key findings in the poll:

  • More than four in five Britons (83%) agree that the UK’s churches, chapels and meeting houses are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history.  The proportion of adults agreeing ranges from 89% for adults aged 65+ to 71% for 18 – 24 year olds.
  • The majority of British adults (80%) agree that churches, chapels and meeting houses are important for society as they provide a space in which community activities can take place, as well as worship.
  • Churches, chapels and meeting houses are seen by British adults as providing a range of important benefits for the UK.  The top three most important perceived benefits are as places of worship (52%), as examples of beautiful architecture (51%) and as an important part of local identity (42%). Only 9% of Britons do not think that churches, chapels and meeting houses have any important benefits for the UK.

Church visits in 2016

According to the ComRes poll, 57% of British adults say they have visited a church, chapel or meeting house in the last year. That is equivalent to 33 million people.

The proportion of British adults who say that they have visited a church, chapel or meeting house for any reason in the last year remained consistent with the findings of a similar poll in 2015.The equivalent findings in 2015 were 57% who said they had visited a church, chapel or meeting house in the past year, compared to 43% who said they had not.

37% of British adults say that they have visited a church, chapel or meeting house for a religious service (such as Sunday worship, weddings and funerals) in the last year; 24% as a visitor or tourist; and 16% have visited a church, chapel or meeting house for a non-religious activity (such as playgroups, cultural events, meetings and lunch clubs) in the last year.

Women (40%) are more likely than men (34%) to report having visited a church, chapel, or meeting house for a religious service in the last year, and are also more likely to report having visited one for a non-religious activity (19% vs 13%).

Adults aged 65+ are almost twice as likely as those who are aged 18-24 to report having visited a church, chapel or meeting house for a religious service in the last year (51% vs 27%).

See the full data tables

Luke March DL, Chairman of the National Churches Trust said:

“The UK’s 42,000 church buildings represent a tremendous national asset much loved by the public, according to the findings of our ComRes opinion poll on church heritage.

“However, the costs of keeping historic churches in good repair and installing modern facilities is simply beyond the reach of most congregations.”

 “That’s why the National Churches Trust welcomes government financial support for the repair of church buildings through schemes including the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund and the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme. “

“This funding has been a vital supplement to funding for church repairs awarded by national organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and charities including the National Churches Trust.”

 “With 57% of British adults backing government financial support for church buildings, I hope that government funding will continue to be made available to protect the heritage and history of churches.”

“Our ComRes opinion poll also shows that the public support churches being open for wider community use as well as for worship.”

“With the Department of Culture, Media & Sport currently examining the sustainability of churches and cathedrals, ways should be found to make it easier for churches to become community hubs and so benefit even more people.”

“In good repair and with the right facilities to allow greater community use, church buildings, chapels and meeting houses can continue to play a vital role in the life and well-being of the nation for many, many years to come.”

 1. ComRes

ComRes interviewed 2,048 GB adults online between the 15th and 18th December 2016. Data were weighted by gender, age, region and socio-economic grade to be representative of all adults in Great Britain aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available at www.comresglobal.com

2. The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme

The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme gives grants that cover the VAT incurred in making repairs to listed buildings in use as places of worship.  The Scheme has been run by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport  with a focus on preserving heritage in the fabric of our UK listed places of worship. Funded up to £42m, the LPWS has paid out £151m since its inception in 2001 and assisting over 13,000 buildings.

3. The Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund

The Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund was set up in December 2014, with £15 million set aside by the Government to enable repair works to be undertaken to the roofs and rainwater disposal systems of listed places of worship. The Fund was subsequently extended in the 2015 Budget, with an additional £15 million allocated for the initial round and £25 million set aside for a second round that was open to applications in Winter 2015-16. The Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund is now closed to new applications.

4. The English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review

The English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review was commissioned by Government in March 2016. Chaired by Bernard Taylor and supported by a distinguished panel of experts, the Review will consider the challenges faced by our ecclesiastical heritage buildings and their long term sustainability. It will report to the Secretary of State for Culture and the Chancellor in April 2017.