THE report Coming Home gives details of a new digital mapping tool, created by the estate agents Knight Frank, designed to plot all church land.
The purpose of the geo-survey is to help parishes and dioceses to identify church land and buildings that could be put to better use. The survey can combine details of ownership with other relevant information, such as who owns adjacent land, what the housing need is in the area, and where the transport links are, etc.
Two pilot areas have been mapped: the diocese of Gloucester, and the deanery of Newham, in the diocese of Chelmsford.
The head of geospatial at Knight Frank, Ian McGuinness, accepts that much church land is already spoken for by its ecclesiastical use. He writes, however, that “it will still be desirable, and increasingly a public-interest imperative, to bring forward a clear vision of how these assets support housing, education and community need under a long-term stewardship model.”
He describes one case in which a planning authority described the part of a village comprising the church, the C of E primary school, and adjoining church agricultural land as the “lost centre” of the settlement. “In the absence of any proposals from the Church, the authority was actively considering shifting development and renewal efforts to the opposite end of the village — a missed opportunity for the Church to be at the heart of the community’s redevelopment plans.”
This is one of the tools that the Archbishops’ Housing Commission is providing, in recognition of the limited resources in many diocesan offices.