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Drones help safeguard Yorkshire churches

Equipped with digital camera - this drone provides a birds eye view of church rooftops

Equipped with digital camera - this drone provides a birds eye view of church rooftops

A church conservation project in Yorkshire which uses drones to inspect roofs and guttering on historic churches and chapels, has just received a cash boost.

The National Churches Trust has received £90,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Yorkshire Maintenance Project. Drone surveys of churches, training workshops to help volunteers maintain church buildings and 'Maintenance Booker' a new website allowing churches of all denominations to book gutter clearances and other urgent maintenance tasks are the key parts of the Project.

The Yorkshire Maintenance Project will focus on helping to sustain the rich religious built heritage of Yorkshire. There are 1,095 listed places of worship in Yorkshire. This total includes 346 Grade I churches, buildings of the highest heritage significance. However, maintenance of these important historic buildings is often neglected, putting their future at risk.

The Yorkshire Maintenance Project will be led by the National Churches Trust, the UK's church repair and support charity. Partners in the project will include SPAB, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), and the Dioceses of Sheffield and York to pilot systems for the maintenance scheme in Yorkshire. The project will also work with the Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Church in Yorkshire.

The grant will also fund an evaluation to allow the service to operate across the Yorkshire and Humber region over the next three years.

Michael Murray, Director of Church Support at the National Churches Trust said: "The National Churches Trust is delighted to have the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Yorkshire Maintenance Project, which will help protect Yorkshire's rich heritage of church buildings."

"The Yorkshire Maintenance Project will help ensure that Yorkshire's churches and chapels will be well maintained, with the risk of serious damage to them minimised. Through training and resources, including a new website to make it easy for diligent but often over-stretched volunteers to book critical maintenance, churchwardens and other people responsible for looking after churches and chapels will be able to give their buildings the love and care they need."

"Regular maintenance is essential for churches. Something as simple as keeping drains and gutters clear so that water is taken away from the building efficiently is the most important thing a church can do to stop small problems developing into unnecessary crises. An overflowing gutter soon soaks the wall beneath, rots the roof timbers behind it and makes the whole building vulnerable. As well as keeping a church building in good repair, preventative maintenance saves money as it has been estimated that every £1 spent on keeping a church in good condition saves £30 in repair costs within five years."

"HLF funding will be available for one year starting in July 2016. We aim to have 25% of the Grade 1 churches in Yorkshire using the scheme over the next year. We hope that the project will result in 274 churches in the dioceses of Sheffield, York and West Yorkshire joining the scheme."

Fiona Spiers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund, Yorkshire and Humber, said: "There is a real need to raise awareness of the importance of regular maintenance and the care of our historic churches. This project will support groups in identifying and addressing the maintenance needs of their places of worship, helping to safeguard the future of our historic environment."

Dr Julie Banham, DAC Secretary of the Diocese of Sheffield, said: "This is an excellent means of enabling parishes to access new technology and training to ensure our churches are in the best possible condition. In the past, so much additional cost and work has been caused by poor repairs or volunteers not knowing who to contact for help. Getting the basics right, knowing which materials and methods to use, when to seek advice and having a regular maintenance plan in place will be hugely beneficial."

The Yorkshire Maintenance Project will work with the Diocese of Sheffield, the Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Church to offer volunteer training to 18 churches and the high level drone inspections.

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