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Leicester Cathedral gains top grant from £42-million pot

05 January 2024

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Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral

LEICESTER CATHEDRAL was awarded the highest grant under the Government’s Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme in 2023, annual figures released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport show.

The cathedral received £600,000 towards a restoration project that included complete renewal of the lighting, heating, and wiring (News, 24 November 2023). Salford Roman Catholic Cathedral was another significant beneficiary of the fund, which specifically covers the VAT costs incurred by places of worship in carrying out urgent building repairs.

Salford’s grant of more than £452,000 was for a series of works to protect the building’s long-term safety, including refurbishment of the roof, new insulation, replacement windows and doors, and new lighting. The funding had been much needed on the cathedral’s journey to fix and restore some original design features, the Dean, Canon Michael Jones, said.

“Not only is the project looking to restore the cathedral’s heritage, using innovative technologies will also provide new sources of energy to heat and light the cathedral as well as offer long-term drainage and roofing solutions to increasingly unpredictable and extreme patterns of weather associated with climate change,” he said. “It will enhance the sacred space, and what we are able to offer the community here in Salford.”

Chichester Cathedral received £195,000 from the £42 million distributed last year. The funding supported the complete replacement of the old leaking roof: one of many projects that it had enabled, the cathedral’s Communar, Ruth Bamford, said.

“Our fund-raising arm, the Chichester Cathedral Restoration and Development Trust, do a fantastic job, but without the ability to recover VAT through [the scheme] they would have to fund-raise for VAT charges,” she said. “Funders would rather see their investment go towards something tangible rather than towards taxes.”

Since its inception in 2010, the fund has invested £346 million in listed churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples throughout the UK — places of worship described by the Arts and Heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, as “precious buildings cherished by people of all faiths and none”.

Churches receiving grants in 2023 included the 12th-century St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick, granted more than £141,500 to repair the ancient tower, including work on the clocks and faces. Its churchwarden, John Luxton, said that the support had been critical for raising the funding required. “I would urge any organisation in a similar position, seeking support, to investigate the scheme and then check out the eligibility criteria,” he said.

At the Grade II listed All Saints’, Wokingham, the grant has been used in the rebuilding of the organ, and in the installation of underfloor heating, as well as an accessible lavatory and entrance. “We simply could not have done the work without the VAT grant. The refund of £250,000 was essential, and, importantly for our cash flow, always paid promptly,” Anne King, the project leader, said. “We can now run concerts, community drop-ins, and a lively café, as well as enjoying worship in beautiful surroundings.”

Parish churches have also benefited in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Lord Parkinson concluded: “With nearly 5000 [buildings] supported over the past year alone, I’m glad to see the difference it has made to visitors, worshippers, and the people who look after them for the benefit of future generations.”

The director for cathedrals and church buildings for the Archbishops’ Council, Emily Gee, said this week: “Our churches and cathedrals provide spiritual, pastoral, and practical support to their communities, and are key to the cultural heritage of the country. Their presence boosts local economies and provides jobs and volunteer roles, and, in many cases, they are the only publicly open building in their local place, where other amenities have closed.

“More than three-quarters of our nearly 16,000 church buildings are listed, meaning they are of great significance to our nation’s heritage. We are enormously grateful for the Government’s Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, and the support that it provides in helping our church buildings remain central to the life of this country.”

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