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Apply – quickly

12 December 2014

THERE is a wonderful flurry - and it is not snow, but the opportunity to make an application to a generous but short-lived government fund for roofs and rainwater goods.

THE sum of £15 million is available for grants of between £10,000 and £100,000, but the challenge is that all applications have to be in by noon on 30 January 2015. This offer may not be repeated, as the fund is disposing of the underspend on the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which repays VAT on church building works.

The guidelines and application form - the online application form comes out on 22 December, but is available to look at now - are available at www.lpowroof.org.uk. The form is very reminiscent of the Joint Repair Scheme form, and is well formulated. Some of the criteria that that scheme asked for before applying are built into the post-grant-offer time. Here are a few key points that may assist you.

First, the church must be listed.

Although the application time is extremely short, the time available for delivering the project once a grant is awarded is not unduly pressured.

If you have tender documents that price your roof- and/or rainwater-goods project, or can get a good budget within the timescale by employing a quantity surveyor for a day, this is the basic. Your architect will have to detail the works to RIBA work stage 3; this is to ensure that you have asked for enough money to complete the work. If you do not get a grant, you will have to find some money yourselves to pay the architect for this preparatory work; so check the amount that will be incurred.

Your most recent quinquennial inspection report should identify the urgency of the works (the most urgent projects will get priority), and, if it is not clear, or is out of date, get a letter from your inspecting architect stating the urgency. You will also require a letter from your archdeacon, or equivalent, supporting the application.

There is a "development stage" after the grant is awarded, so that essential surveys, the specification of works, and a faculty can be prepared (there is a note on bats). The scheme is being managed by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which also manages the Heritage Lottery Fund Grants to Listed Places of Worship.

The application asks for photos of your church, inside and out, and it would be advantageous to include some of the repair work. Ensure that you use one of these bright clear winter days to get some high-quality photos - and you could include one or two of people using the church.

Projects are assessed on four grounds: the urgency of the identified repair need; the need for public money (if you have enough in your building fund already, don't apply); that the project is well planned (ensure you run through this with your architect); and the financial realism of the project.

It will help your bid if you can contribute some funds yourselves, but don't be unrealistic about raising other funds, as the scheme can pay out up to 100 per cent of what is needed, minus any reclaimable VAT. Similar issues seem to be arising in the Heritage Lottery Fund Scheme, as churches ask for an unrealistically low figure and struggle to raise their share.

Start now, read the guidelines and the form, meet your architect, and get going on the RIBA stage 3 work and the realistic budget. You have time to do everything really well in order to get ahead in what will be a scramble of a competition.

By the way, this is a great opportunity for churches that do not accept lottery funds to have a sizeable grant that is not usually available to them.

Issues and questions to maggie-durran@virginmedia.com.

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