Friday January 27, 2006A

A debate at the General Synod at the end of the month is set to signal a national focus on keeping England’s churches in decent repair. It will be based on a report which warns that funding is decreasing for all religious buildings, and more public money has to be given towards the upkeep of this enormously important part of our heritage.
The paper also asks for 50% of the overall repair costs of listed churches to be met by public funding, and suggests a bid of £60m to allow this to happen. In addition to this, the report stresses that by developing the potential of their buildings, parishes can cooperate with local communities to develop mutually beneficial ways of accommodating people, and sourcing income.
English Heritage (EH) has been working on the project with the Church of England and has recently offered over £1 million towards the repair of 25 Cathedrals around England.

 
This is the 16th round of grants since English Heritage?s Cathedral Grants scheme was launched in 1991 when a survey revealed that the country?s 61 cathedrals were facing a huge backlog of major repairs that they could not fund alone. Since then the scheme has contributed a grand total of £41.8 million towards the repair of some of England?s greatest buildings, ensuring that none of our cathedral churches are at risk.

 
This year, the largest six grants offers of between £51,000 and £100,000 go to the cathedrals of Carlisle, Coventry, Hereford, Lincoln, Salisbury and Durham for major masonry and roof repairs. Nineteen smaller grants of between £8,000 and £50,000 have been offered to projects as diverse as photogrammetric drawings of the central tower at Southwell Cathedral to inform future repairs (a technique which enables experts to obtain information about a building?s condition by recording, measuring, and interpreting photographic images); replacement of the cloister drainage system at Norwich Church of England Cathedral; and repairs to the gables on the West Front of Peterborough Cathedral.

 
Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ?English Heritage is proud of our 16-year partnership with England?s cathedrals which has ensured that, though in constant need of repair, they are no longer at serious risk of ruin and decay.?

 
But according to Mr. Thurley, parish churches and chapels are suffering a similar back-log of repairs. To tackle this, English Heritage is launching a campaign, Inspired! to galvanise the country into action to secure a future for all our historic church buildings.

  
Over the next few months EH will undertake a mixture of research, pilot projects, training and capacity building to identify how best to keep our parish churches alive and thriving, and to make a cast-iron case for greater Government support.
Over the next few months it aims to undertake a mixture of research, pilot projects, training and capacity building to identify how best to keep our parish churches alive and thriving, and to make a cast-iron case for greater Government support.
Meanwhile EH is also in charge of the listings system, which is likely tochange soonwith the abolishment of the Grade II* award. Although all listed places of worship are eligible for EH funding applications, some churches may end up either dropping down to Grade II, or being ‘promoted’ to Grade I status, which will make a difference to the way they need to be cared for, and may have an effect on what maintenance parishes can take care of themselves.
However, despite possible differences, the two bodies are determined to work together on the subject, and with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund it is hoped that attitudes can change towards buildings of worship in 2006, or there could be very few left for the next generation.
‘The problem we urgently need to address is how to keep our places of worship in a good condition and accessible for everyone to use and enjoy,’ said Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage.
‘It is time to stop talking and start acting. We must start to work together now to safeguard these most precious parts of our national heritage.’
English Heritage
Church of England

To top