Historic churches at risk after government cuts funding

Crispin Truman

Crispin Truman

The future of historic churches across England will only be secured if local people pull together to help raise money for vital repairs and develop new uses for these unique buildings,  says The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) following today’s Comprehensive Spending Review which cut the Trust’s DCMS funding by 20 percent.

The Trust, the national charity that protects England’s historic churches at risk, is calling for historic churches that are no longer used for regular worship to be brought back into the heart of community life through:

- Community-led approaches that give new life to these cherished buildings.

- A more enterprising approach to raising income to contribute to maintenance and upkeep.

- Greater awareness from local authorities of the potential uses of historic churches in community life and regeneration schemes. They must not be sidelined because they are deemed ‘too difficult’, especially in an era of reduced funding.

Examples of alternative use include historic churches used as social, tourism, educational or community resources – including drama and circus schools, mental health wellbeing centres and a Muslim community in Bolton creating a community centre for all.  

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive, The Churches Conservation Trust, said:  “The charity will respond to the 20 percent cut by asking local communities and donors to play a greater role in funding repair and conservation work, previously covered by Government grants.

“While painful, the cuts must be viewed as a catalyst for greater community led solutions to save their historic churches.  There are already fantastic examples of community led schemes saving historic churches, ranging from circus schools to mental wellbeing centres. We will be working with communities across England to develop schemes right for their community and their church, always seeking to keep the church open and in the heart of the community - where they belong.  

“We are particularly concerned about historic churches in poor areas. This is where CCT makes a significant difference working with local authorities, the voluntary sector and regeneration bodies to provide extra support to these more vulnerable communities so they can keep their historic buildings open and in use.  Often, in rural areas, the historic church is the last civic building left in the community.”

Between 20 – 30 Anglican churches are closed for regular worship each year.   An historic church coming into the care of the Trust can cost over £250,000 to make weather tight, even before any work is undertaken to make it suitable for modern use.

The Churches Conservation Trust  cares for 340 of the most significant historic churches in the country no longer used for regular worship.   All of its churches are open to the public every day and were used and enjoyed by over 1.7m people last year including 3,550 community, arts and educational events.   

The Trust runs regeneration, tourism, education and community schemes and over 100 conservation projects a year including protecting Charles Dickens’ church to preserving rare 13th-century wall paintings.   The Trust’s repair programme and activities generates over £15m of direct local economic value including skilled local jobs, spending by Trust visitors at local businesses and money taken in from church events and used by local people on basic church maintenance.

For more information see: www.visitchurches.org.uk

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