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PCC faces court over replacement of lead roof

28 September 2012


A COMMISSARY COURT will take place at St Mary the Virgin, Eastry, in Kent, next Wednesday, to determine the petition lodged by the parish for a confirmatory faculty for works already completed to the roof of the north and south aisles.

It is understood that the lead roof of the 13th-century church, part of the benefice of Eastry, was replaced with felt after four lead-thefts.

A spokesperson for the diocese of Canterbury said: "It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on these issues whilst they are before the Court. A detailed judgment will be issued by the Commissary General, Miss Morag Ellis QC, later in the year."

Advice from the Church Buildings Council, issued this month, states that, "for a great many" roofing applications, lead remains the most appropriate material; but it recognises that this is "not always realistic" after a theft. The use of non-metal alternatives is, "in general", not recommended.

The churchyard wall and gates to the north, east, and west of St Mary's are Grade II listed by English Heritage. Proposals to change the roof covering on Grade II listed buildings do not need to be seen by the charity. Nevertheless, its updated guidance ( News, 28 September 2011) on the theft of metal from churches favours like-for-like replacement as the ideal repair approach for church roofs.

A "durable replacement" such as terne-coated stainless steel or tiles "might be the most prudent way to repair the building", it states, but "support for the use of plastic or other non-traditional materials in listed places of worship would be exceptional."

The guidance suggests that "most" of the alternatives to lead are "visually inappropriate" and "relatively expensive to install, even using a material such as felt, which should last for ten years".

Geoffrey Stollard, a chartered builder and member of the Fabric Committee at St John's, Bromsgrove, believed to be the first Grade I listed church to be granted a faculty to replace stolen lead with fibreglass ( News, 9 November 2011), said on Wednesday that the diocese of Worcester was "lucky" to have a Chancellor who is a fully qualified architect, surveyor, and barrister.

"He analysed every argument he could get, and was quite happy that nobody could give any reason why not to use glass fibre," said Mr Stollard, who argues that lead would "never" be used on commercial premises, and that the noise produced by rain on a stainless-steel roof and its cost are "horrendous".

The Commissary Court at St Mary's will start at 10 a.m., and is open to all.


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