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English churches to get government funds for repairs

By Ann Marie Foley - 13 September, 2018

At the launch of church renovation pilot programme

England’s listed places of worship are to benefit from a government-funded church renovation pilot program. The £1.8 million scheme to repair and enhance such buildings has been launched by the Heritage Minister in Manchester.

“Historic faith buildings are a key part of our rich heritage and it is important they are protected,” said Mr Michael Ellis, Heritage Minister.

“Every year thousands of volunteers dedicate a huge amount of time to their upkeep, but many need high levels of maintenance and repair. Through these pilots in Manchester and Suffolk, we will unlock the wider community potential of listed places of worship, and provide practical guidance to help preserve these much-loved buildings.”

The scheme is open to all faiths and denominations and comes in the wake of last year’s Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals. It concluded that church buildings played a “vital role” in providing public services and a sense of identity to communities across the country.

The 18-month scheme will be run by Historic England and will test the recommendations made in the Taylor Review across the largely urban area of Greater Manchester and in rural Suffolk.

The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, expressed gratitude that Greater Manchester has been selected and said the Church looks forward to working with Historic England and its team and to share the Catholic heritage with the organisation.

“I am hopeful that the pilot will help to explore the idea that churches can serve the needs of wider audiences by simply being churches, offering a spiritual space to all comers. Particularly as places of beauty, quiet and peace they can provide much value to visitors of all faiths or none, particularly if accessible to all throughout the day, away from the noise and constant secular distractions of our everyday lives,” said Bishop Arnold.

The Taylor Review noted how passionate people feel about church buildings, which incorporate some of the most inspiring architectural and landscape elements of the historic environment.

The review recommended targeting funding to promote care, maintenance and community engagement, while supporting the volunteers and church members who work tirelessly to keep church buildings in use and accessible.

Sophie Andraea, Vice Chairman of the Patrimony Committee of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, welcomed the initiative and said that there are many historic Catholic churches in need of funding for urgent repair. “This pilot will help to assess the needs of such buildings so that policies can be put in place to ensure that these important historic buildings are not lost,” she said.

Last July, a report highlighted that the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund awarded grants between 2014 and 2018, totalling up to £40 million. Some 146 awards were made to 57 cathedrals, with 12 cathedrals awarded more than £1 million each, and an average award of £274,000.

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