A sustainable future for England’s church buildings

Published: Tuesday, March 7, 2017

 

The National Churches Trust's response to The English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review.

The English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review, commissioned by Government in March 2016, is currently considering the responses made to a consultation examining the challenges faced by ecclesiastical heritage buildings and their long term sustainability.

The National Churches Trust response to the consultation was one of around 6,000 made by individuals and organisations with an interest in the future of English churches and cathedrals.

Chaired by Bernard Taylor and supported by a distinguished panel of experts, the Review will report to the Secretary of State for Culture and the Chancellor in April 2017.

Luke March, Chairman of the National Churches Trust said:

“I welcome the Government’s continued interest in the future of the United Kingdom’s historic places of worship in the setting up of the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review, following its investment in church and cathedral fabric repairs through the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund and the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repair Fund.“

“In our submission to the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review, we recommended an examination of all aspects of sustainability, including funding for repairs and new facilities, generating additional income sources and encouraging the better maintenance of church buildings.“

“The National Churches Trust is committed to church sustainability through our grants programme, which in 2016 helped 166 churches and chapels.”

“We are also developing new online church support systems.”

“These include ExploreChurches, www.explorechurches.org, which provides visitors with information on churches to visit across the UK and MaintenanceBooker, www.maintenancebooker.org.uk which helps churches book professional help to maintain their buildings.”

 “Churches, chapels and meeting houses are at the very heart of communities in cities, towns and villages and are a treasure trove of architecture, history and faith.  I hope that the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review will help them to continue to play a vital role in the life and well being of people for many, many years to come.”

Key points from the National Churches Trust submission to the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review.

1. Continuing funding for church sustainability

Historic churches are old buildings, and building materials have a finite life, so funding will continue to be needed to replace worn out or damaged structures/materials.  However, there are not enough grants for all urgent repair issues, in particular to support churches in sparsely populated areas. There are also growing repair demands from major Victorian churches and also from post war churches in deprived urban areas that are starting to experience  ‘end of life issues’ with their roof, electrical systems and other fabric.

There remains a continuing need for funding from a programme similar to the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund, set up in December 2014, and which allocated £50 million to help church buildings. In its submission to the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review, the National Churches Trust suggests that similar funding is made available in the future and that it is targeted to help more disadvantaged congregations and communities.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is a major supporter of church buildings.  To help ensure that its resources go where they are most needed, the National Churches Trust proposed that the Review should recommend a strategic conversation between government, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Church of England and other interested parties, about the priorities for the use of HLF funding to churches.

2.  Community engagement.

For many churches and chapels, the community is everyone in the local neighbourhood, whether or not they are worshippers. This approach can help make more of church buildings and the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review has a focus on the potential of wider, secular uses to try to identify financially sustainable models to keep churches in good condition and regularly used, both for worship and community use.

However, it should be remembered that for many worshippers and some denominations the entire church building is a sacred space, and additional secular uses are therefore more limited. 

3. Maintenance matters

Churches not performing regular maintenance are more likely to be in a poor condition and unsuitable for community use.  Experience shows that it is better to conserve historic fabric rather than have to replace structures that could have been saved had a small repair been undertaken in a timely manner.

The National Churches Trust encourages the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review to help change the funding paradigm away from repair/replacement to maintenance/conservation. In 2017 the National Churches Trust launched a new programme of Maintenance Grants, in partnership with the Pilgrim Trust.  However, as there is a huge demand for maintenance, other sources of funding are required.

Background Information

1. The English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review

The Review is charged with:

  • Exploring new models of financing repairs and maintenance of churches and cathedrals, including reviewing existing maintenance costs and repair funding from lottery and central government grants. The review would also identify and develop a series of tool s/resources/models, draw on successful case studies, and existing management within the Church of England, Churches Conservation Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund.
  • Consulting with stakeholders including: Church of England, church-goers, charities, local residents and business on ideas for uses of listed buildings for purposes beyond worship and current barriers that prevent these and how to generate revenue from these.

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.

If you have any queries about the review, please contact the secretariat at churches.review@culture.gov.uk or Churches Review Secretariat, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, 4th Floor, 100 Parliament Street, London SW1A 2BQ.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/english-churches-and-cathedrals-sustainability-review

2. 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.

www.lpowroof.org.uk

3. About the National Churches Trust

The National Churches Trust is the national, independent charity dedicated to supporting and promoting places of worship of historic, architectural and community value used by Christian denominations throughout the UK. The Trust does this through the provision of grants for repairs and modernisation, support, advice and information and campaigning to highlight the cause of church buildings and the value they provide to communities.

The Trust is the successor to two older charities, the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, founded in 1953 and the Incorporated Church Building Society, founded in 1818.