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Funding for unlisted churches

23 April 2009

by Maggie Durran

Can our unlisted church get a grant from the Joint Repair Scheme run by English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund?

THE Joint Repair Scheme aids only listed churches. The English Heritage contribution of £10,000,000 is given to Grade I and Grade II* churches, and £15,500,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund serves Grade II churches. Unlisted churches are not covered by this generous scheme. Nor do unlisted places of worship qualify for the grants that offset VAT.

But it is not all negative. Unlisted churches have far more leeway in what they can do with their buildings. The correspondent has not said whether the church is fund-raising for repairs, new facilities, or a programme of activity; so I will cover all three.

With an unlisted church, it is important, as this correspondent is doing, to sit back and assess which sources of funding might be of help. Listed churches can get access to the funds mentioned above because those funders are concerned for heritage buildings and their conservation.

Two or three large trusts support churches regardless of listing. They are the National Churches Trust, Ecclesiastical/Allchurches Trust, and Garfield Weston Foundation. But the amount received will not be of the magnitude of the Joint Repair Scheme. The people who care most about your church — the congregation, the people of the parish — are the most likely source of funds; so develop a fund-raising pro­gramme in which all can make contributions.

There is a variety of trusts who will help if you are creating new facilities for use by local people. Here, the listing of the church is not relevant to whether you get a grant. Assess the people for whom the church will provide a benefit, and look for trusts that target those beneficiaries. There are trusts and organisations that support village and community halls and facilities.

Remember to make your case in the language of the funder. Ensure that you are very specific about the beneficiaries and benefits, even if the benefit will happen only in the future. In other words, I am reiterating the message that there must be both local need and local demand for the facilities you are creating.

When you are fund-raising for activities, again, there is no problem for unlisted churches, which may be easier to adapt to the new activity programmes than the listed churches are. But, as with new facilities, it is important to spell out the nature of the need, and give evidence that there is demand for the programme. Letters of support and reports from local voluntary and statutory agencies are helpful.

For larger repairs, there is one other route that is possible. If your church has local significance, you could always find out if it could be listed. English Heritage is the best adviser on how this might be done. Your church would be assessed for its merits, and possibly have a change of status.

Churches may be worried by the controls involved, but this route makes it easier to keep up with repairs, and keeps a focus on the long-term aim of preserving and conserving our Christian heritage.

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