Surge in demand for maintenance grants, says National Churches Trust

23 August 2019

NATIONAL CHURCHES TRUST

Supporters of the National Churches Trust on a tour of Westminster Cathedral, at the end of May, led by Dr Rory O’Donnell, a member of the cathedral’s Art and Architecture Committee

Supporters of the National Churches Trust on a tour of Westminster Cathedral, at the end of May, led by Dr Rory O’Donnell, a member of the cathe...

DEMAND for funds to maintain historic churches in Britain is outstripping supply, the National Churches Trust says.

The number of applications for grants received by the Trust, a charity which supports UK churches, increased by 24 per cent in 2018 compared with 2017; and, over the past two years, the number rose by 56 per cent. The trust blames a number of factors, including less money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, changes to its grant programmes, and greater awareness of its work.

Writing in the charity’s annual review, published earlier this month, the charity’s chairman, Luke March, said: “The funding of urgent repairs of church buildings remains a source of great concern.

“Following the decision by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to end its ring-fenced Grants to Places of Worship scheme, and the ending of the government-supported Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund, the trust has seen a very large increase in demand for its grants. Although congregations and charitable trusts continue to provide substantial financial support to churches, there continues to be a need for funding from national-heritage bodies.”

Although direct state support continues through the refunding of VAT on repairs through the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme, he said, it was only guaranteed until next year.

Last year, the trust made 228 awards to churches and chapels, totalling £1,269,738. Enquiries about its grants increased by 44 per cent compared with 2017, and grant information on the trust’s website received almost 30,000 hits.

Mr March said: “At a time when so many public buildings are closing, and high streets are losing their shops, church buildings are places where people can meet, collaborate, and build community, as well as continue to worship. That is why it is so important to keep them open and in good repair.”

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