Heritage Lottery Fund changes its funding for places of worship

Published: Wednesday, April 5, 2017


From September 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund's (HLF) Grants for Places of Worship programme will close to new applications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The programme may continue in Scotland, as it is a joint initiative with Historic Environment Scotland.

In its place, funding for repairs to places of worship will be available through HLF’s existing Our Heritage (up to £100,000) and Heritage Grants (up to £5million) programmes.  These grants will be available to both listed and unlisted places of worship.

Under the new arrangements, 100% of works and activities could be funded with no requirement for partnership funding, through the Our Heritage Programme. For larger schemes, more money will be available for individual places of worship. The Grants for Places of Worship awards were limited to £250,000 per application. Under Heritage Grants, applicants can apply for up to £5m per application.

Full details of the changes, together with details of HLF grants available for churches, can be found on the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance website.

A press statement about the changes can be found on the HLF website.

There is also an article explaining the changes on the HLF website.

The Church of England has produced a briefing paper about the changes which can be found on the Church Care website.

Take part in our opinion poll about the changes.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said:

“Many people think that the Church of England pays for the upkeep of the UK’s church buildings. That’s just not true – it is up to parishes themselves to raise the money needed to repair a leaking roof or fix a crumbling spire.”

 “That’s why the Grants for Places of Worship scheme has been so important in supporting churches, chapels and meeting houses by providing vitally needed funding to ensure these buildings remain in good repair.”

 “It is therefore important that at least the existing level of HLF grants for funding church buildings continues to be made available through the new arrangement.“

“The fact that the Government’s Roof Repair Fund, which made available £55 million in 2015-2016, was substantially oversubscribed, shows that there is a need for more, rather than less, funding to ensure the long term survival of our precious heritage of church buildings."

The UK's much loved church buildings

“Churches are the UK’s single most important category of historic buildings, with 12,500 of the Church of England's church buildings listed and 45% of all England's Grade I listed buildings cathedrals and churches. They are unmatched for history, architecture and sheer variety anywhere else in the world."

"They are also much loved by the public”. 

“A poll by ComRes, commissioned by the National Churches Trust in December 2016, showed that 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 poll also showed that 57% of  British adults believe it is the government’s responsibility to help to fund repairs.”


“It would appear that changes to the HLF’s funding for places of worship were originally made with a minimum level of consultation with church and heritage stakeholders. In particular, the HLF decision was taken in isolation from the work of the Department of Culture, Media & Sport’s Church Sustainability Review, which has been examining issues including maintenance costs and repairs and funding from lottery and central government grants.”

“We welcome the fact that the HLF will now be discussing their decision in more detail with a range of interested parties.”

New funding arrangements

“The National Churches Trust will work closely with the HLF to make sure that their new funding arrangements are understood by those looking after places of worship and assist congregations needing help and advice in making funding applications to the Our Heritage and Heritage Grants funding programmes."

“Indeed, there are some aspects of the new funding arrangements that improve the situation for places of worship, such as the fact that all HLF grants for churches will now be available for listed and unlisted places of worship, as has been the case with our grants for many years.”

“We will also continue to run our Project Development grant scheme, a new programme introduced in 2016, which allows churches to develop proposed solutions to improve sustainability and which helps them to make funding applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund, or other large church heritage funders.”