*** DEBUG END ***

Who is to go up the ladder?

29 April 2016

As plans are developed, you need to check that you are happy with the technical details of the proposal. Without wishing to denigrate all architects, I have seen a tendency to ignore the maintenance aspects of equipment; so do not install electronic equipment under an old (damp) suspended floor — it will fail, expensively. If systems such as fire alarms use batteries, have you considered how they will be replaced (and how often)? What are the costs of annual inspections of items (sensors, for example) mounted in the ceiling? What are the running costs? How will light bulbs be replaced? (LEDs use considerably less energy than halogens.)


THIS correspondent speaks with the voice of experience. This reinforces the necessity of looking carefully at plans for building work — for all these ongoing issues, and more. Some architects are on the ball in their specification of fixtures and fittings, but the issues raised in this letter have all happened.

Changing burned-­out light bulbs safely and readily is a common issue. Many fittings are too high and inaccessible, and, with an older church population, step­ladders are often inadequate. New works should have fittings low down (with uplighters if necessary); be fitted with LED bulbs, which are by nature long-­life; and all bulbs and fittings should be easily bought locally (it can take months to source some of the recommended designs).

An annual visit by a builder with a scaffolding tower, and experienced climbers of such equipment, can give access to sensors and change high-­level bulbs; this is the safest way forward. Those ancient wooden ladders at the back of many churches are often death­ traps.

With all installations — wiring and lights, water and serveries — check that all items are easily maintained, and can be repaired by a local contractor. At times, a church will have a churchwarden who has the experience to be on top of these items; many of us, however, have no experience, and need to build up a good relationship with a local and trustworthy maintenance contractor.

Your lighting plans may be part of a re­ordering plan. Look carefully at the way the building will be used afterwards. Ensure that access to all rooms is independent of passages through other meeting-rooms, or you may find that only one meeting-room can be used at a time.

If children’s groups are present, how are they protected when other rooms are in use? In one award-­winning church design, the only indoor access to church services was through the community meeting-room, in which anything from aerobics to AA was happening throughout the day.

Check your building project for issues before, during, and after the works. In the Heritage Lottery Fund materials, applicants are asked for risk analyses at all these stages, and, in much the same way, look at the detailed plans for all the upsides and downsides, and resolve them before the project starts.


Send your issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available



The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)