A £15-MILLION repair fund for listed churches suffering from
leaking roofs and gutters has been set up by the Government.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, (above) announced the
new fund during his Autumn Statement in Parliament on Wednesday.
Grants for between £10,000 and £100,000 will be available for
urgent repairs to roofs and parts of buildings that deal with
rainwater from March next year.
The Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund will be open to
any place of worship of any faith as long as it is listed, and will
be run by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Applications must be
filed by 30 January 2015.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, who is the lead bishop
for the Church of England's church buildings, said that he was
"delighted" the fund had been set up shortly after English Heritage
added 850 churches to its Heritage At Risk register.
"This will make a real and lasting difference to parishes that
are awarded grants. It will keep these important buildings warm and
secure, allowing them to remain open and welcoming for both worship
and wider community use."
The money is in addition to the £20-million fund announced by Mr
Osborne in March for repairs to cathedrals (News,
21 March). The first £4.7-million tranche of that money, given
to 18 C of E and four Roman Catholic cathedrals, was announced in
August (News, 8 August).
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, said
that the Fund proved that the Government appreciated what churches
contributed to the nation. "England's parish churches are as much a
part of the English landscape as the hedgerow or the oak tree.
"All parish churches need to have decent roofs and serviceable
guttering. These are unromantic but essential. They are often
expensive, and it is very welcome news that the Government is
providing £15 million for funding."
The director of ChurchCare, Janet Gough, said that it would work
with parishes that wanted to apply for grants.
Other measures announced in the Autumn Statement included
reforms to stamp duty to cut the tax most people pay when buying a
home, and a two-year freeze of working-age benefits
Speaking in a House of Lords debate on Mr Osborne's Statement on
Thursday, the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster,
said that tax cuts for stamp duty, ISAs, air passenger duty, and
the feezing of fuel duty would be warmly welcomed by those who have
struggled under austerity.
"The Chancellor's confidence that we 'stay on course to
prosperity' is not yet the personal experience of many known
to me and to the parishes and clergy in my diocese," he
"The dignity of work - with the capacity to provide for a family
and save for the uncertainties of the future - and the ambition of
home ownership remain beyond many."
Bishop Foster also said that he was grateful for the £15 million
church roof repairs fund as churches were a "tangible link with our
past and very often a focus of local identity".