Rainy days: don’t give up hope

06 March 2015

We love our church. But the demands for funds for repairs and for making some improvements to the building are beyond our means, as there are very few of us in a small village. We have applied to the "Roof and rainwater goods" repair scheme just offered by the Government, and that has encouraged us to think that there may be help somewhere out there for work to provide a welcome area with a small servery and a lavatory at the back of the church; this would make so much difference to people who want to use the church. Where do we go next?

THE one-off "Roof and rainwater goods" grant scheme has encouraged many churches to apply; sadly, not all of them will be successful. But do not lose heart. These kinds of building works are covered by the Heritage Lottery Fund's Grants for Places of Worship Scheme, and the form is not too different from the work you have already done for your first application.

If you receive a letter turning you down on the "Roof and rainwater goods" scheme, fill in the enquiry form on the Heritage Lottery Fund's website, and plough on.

Capitalise, also, on the energy that you have built up to start looking at the church's facilities, and where you might get help. The Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) grants do help churches with quite significant funds (usually not enough to complete larger churches' projects, but often adequate for small buildings). This fund seems to be changing, however, and has less money available for the future.

As landfill operators are turning to the new-generation incinerators, they require far less landfill capacity; so the landfill tax allowance that has funded the Community Grant Schemes is reduced. Check by visiting the Entrust website (www.entrust.org.uk), and look for potential funds in your area by entering the church's postcode. Follow the trail, and most of the companies that operate LCF have staff who will help with the directions and answer questions.

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All these funding streams have their own particular internal logic, which is not always intelligible to the inexperienced.

The National Churches Trust is now the portal through which to gain access to WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental Limited) Landfill Community Fund grants for church repair. There is a WREN scheme that will support community-facilities works in churches; so check which stream you need. For repairs, you make one application on the National Churches Trust application form, and the people at National Churches Trust will forward appropriate bids to WREN.

Presumably, they will check that the nature of the works covered by your bid are eligible, and also that the church is geographically near enough to an operational landfill site.

As you prepare a building project, do have in mind that you will be able to claim most of the VAT from the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme. Note that many churches have not, up until now, claimed grant money to which they are entitled. Don't miss out. And, when you plan the cashflow for your project, it is worth knowing that the Scheme, which was once marvellous at turning round applications swiftly, is taking months rather than days to respond.

Send issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com 

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