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Jilted by English Heritage

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“Our church is Grade I-listed and has been turned down for a repair grant by English Heritage. What can we do now? The tower needs structural repairs.”

Each summer, for several months, listed churches can apply to the Joint Repair Scheme of English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund. About £25 million is allocated to this grant fund, but it is still less than the total applied for by churches.

Being turned down is a problem, since the Repair Scheme is, for most churches, the biggest outside funder they are likely to find. But all is not lost. First of all, since the Repair Scheme has just re-opened for 2005, you can re-apply. It’s important to check the quality and detail of your application, though.

Urgency

If your church repair can hold on for another year or two, you will be dropped to the bottom of the list. But here are some clues to staying near the top.

Does the quinquennial inspection report identify the repairs as essential within two years? Are stones and other bits of the fabric in danger of falling on passers-by? Is the church interior being damaged by water getting in? If your answer to any of these is yes, then be sure to mention it in your application.

Affordability

None of the outside bodies that donate to church repairs provide more than 40 per cent of what is needed nationwide each year. So don’t be greedy. If your church repair can be done well for less than the architect’s first quotation, then get the quotation revised.

Whatever contribution the Repair Scheme offers, you will be expected to raise money from other sources and from your own efforts. It is never too soon to encourage residents and members of the congregation to dig into their pockets.
Appropriateness

Look closely at the detailed criteria of the Repair Scheme. Make sure that: a) your repairs fit those criteria; and b) your description of the work required is couched in the same terms. If, for example, work needed to stop water getting in means that you’ll have to move the electrical wiring, avoid presenting the elec-trical work in a way that seems disconnected from the water works. (The Repair Scheme does not usually help with electrical works.)

Other outside sources

Wait until English Heritage responds to your application — for a “yes” expect to wait till December — before applying to other outside funders. They like to know English Heritage has offered first! Their contributions will be relatively smaller.

Strange but true

The Repair Scheme struggles to spend all the money designated for Grade-II churches, so those who do apply are very likely to get a grant.

Do you have a question about an aspect of church development or growth for this column? Write to maggie.durran@churchtimes.co.uk

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