INSURANCE considerations should not be determinative of what was
appropriate for a church building, the Chancellor of the diocese of
Coventry, Stephen Eyre, ruled when considering a petition for the
replacement of lead roofing with a Dryseal Glass Reinforced
Polyester (GRP) roofing system at All Saints', Leamington
The medieval Grade II* listed church is in the centre of a small
country village, but it is some distance from the nearest property,
and its south side faces away from the village. Consequently, it
has been vulnerable to attacks on the hidden south side. In
November 2009, an arson attack resulted in a fire on the roof of
the south aisle, which affected a large part of the church and
destroyed the organ.
The roof was repaired in lead, the damage repaired, and the
organ replaced. In August 2013, there were two instances of the
theft of lead from the roof of the south aisle, and a further
attempt to steal the remaining lead. The removal of the roofing by
those thefts caused water ingress immediately above the new organ,
which was rendered unusable, and had to be repaired at a cost of
£25,000. In addition, silver was stolen from inside the church.
A temporary polythene covering was fitted to the south-aisle
roof immediately after the lead thefts, but despite that there had
been some water ingress. At the request of the PCC, the Chancellor
authorised the removal of the remaining lead from the roof, and its
replacement by a more substantial temporary covering.
The church architect recommended that any temporary covering
should provide protection at least as robust as that of a
three-thickness elastomeric roofing felt. The PCC investigated the
cost of such a covering, and found that it would be the same as the
GRP covering that it wished to install permanently. It therefore
installed a GRP covering, relying on the authorisation given for a
temporary covering, but conscious that the final decision of the
Consistory Court might require a different covering.
The GRP installation was completed in April 2014, but by that
time there was a difference of view between, on the one hand, the
petitioners - who were the Priest-in-Charge, the churchwardens, and
the PCC - and, on the other hand, the DAC, English Heritage, and
the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, who contended
that the replacement roof should be made of terne-coated steel,
because it best imitated the effect and appearance of lead.
Everyone was agreed that it was not appropriate for the roof to be
recovered in lead.
The petitioners' principal reason for using GRP rather than
terne-coated steel was that the insurers, the Ecclesiastical
Insurance Group, said that if a metallic roof of any kind was
installed on the south aisle it would provide insurance cover only
up to £5000, including consequential loss, although that would be
increased to £10,000 if a suitable alarm was fitted.
That would not be adequate insurance cover, since the value of
the items in the south aisle, particularly the organ, greatly
exceed that sum.
Moreover, although stainless steel did not have the same value
as lead, it did have a resale value; so a roof of such material
would be at risk of theft, and could result in damage to the roof,
with consequent water ingress. The DAC had advised that the GRP
roof would not adversely affect the church's special character.
The Chancellor said that terne-coated steel would normally be
preferable to GRP, even if the roof in question would not be
readily visible. The approach of the insurers was not a
justification for using material that would otherwise be
inappropriate. It would not render suitable a material which would
otherwise not be suitable.
The insurance position, regrettable though it was, could not be
a justification for the use of GRP to roof the south aisle, the
Chancellor said, when the balance of other factors was so strongly
against GRP and in favour of terne-coated steel. The long-term
solution must be a roof of terne-coated steel or some equivalent
The Chancellor authorised the retention of the GRP covering that
was in place until 1 September 2024, by which time it must be
replaced by a roof made of terne-coated steel or an equivalent
The insurance position was, nevertheless, "by no means entirely
irrelevant, and [was] a justification, particularly given the
special history of this church, for allowing a breathing space
while all concerned can take stock", the Chancellor said. The
lengthy period would also enable further discussions to take place