National Lottery Heritage Fund strategy consultation


The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the UK’s largest funder of heritage.

We have taken part in a consultation about their future strategy which reviews the vision of theirr 2019 Strategic Funding Framework and which ask whether their priorities and investment approach are the right ones for heritage and people for the future.

In making the case for church buildings we suggested four key changes in relation to the funding and support for heritage by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in the next three or five years.

Making the case for church buildings

1. There should be an increased level of financial support for church heritage. Since the closure of the dedicated National Lottery Heritage Fund grant scheme for listed places of worship (GPOW) in 2017, funding for local church buildings such as parish churches has fallen far short of the demand. This imbalance needs to be urgently addressed, either through the reintroduction of ring-fenced funding, or through the adoption of a financial target for the funding of local church heritage (this would need to be in addition to the funding of cathedrals and major churches) that provided consistent year-on-year funding. Because of the number and importance of local church buildings (ie parish churches, chapels and meeting houses) there should be a much more explicit recognition of their importance and a greater share of National Lottery Heritage Fund funding going to support them.

2. Provision needs to be made for the funding of small repairs and basic maintenance of church buildings to help support and embed good maintenance practice. Pro-active maintenance of church heritage means that less money needs to be spent on major repair projects. The value in particular of timely maintenance to church buildings was shown in a report in 2019 by APEC Architects and Greenwood Projects for Historic England, which researched the value of maintenance and minor repairs to listed places of worship. It concluded that prompt attention to minor repair and maintenance would have slowed the need for major and costly repair needs and resulted in potential financial savings of 15-20% overall.

3. The National Lottery Heritage Fund should work with other heritage bodies, tourism organisations, education providers and local authorities and other relevant organisations to create a better appreciation and understanding of the importance of church buildings to  the heritage of the UK, and also of their very significant contribution to local economies. This would including education about historic buildings in the national curriculum and making links between local historic buildings and local schools.

4. Increased support for the training and education in the rare and specialist skills is needed for the restoration of historic church buildings.