Government-funded buildings pilot launched
03 September 2018 IN: National News
A Government-funded pilot programme to repair and enhance England’s listed places of worship is being launched today by the Heritage Minister, Michael Ellis, at St Ann’s Church in Manchester.
The £1.8 million scheme, which will see expert advisors working with all faiths and denominations, comes in response to last year’s Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals, which concluded that church buildings played a "vital role" in providing public services and a sense of identity to communities across the country.
The 18-month scheme will be run by Historic England and will test the recommendations made in the Taylor Review across the largely urban area of Greater Manchester. A second pilot will run in rural Suffolk.
The Manchester pilot will last for 18 months. A number of listed Anglican churches have been identified that make good candidates for repair funding to enhance community engagement. They include:
St Clements, Ordsall (Salford) – a grade 2 listed building currently undergoing phase 5 of fabric investment. The church supports many people in need and has further plans to help people living in poverty in the area.
St Thomas, Halliwell (Bolton) – A beautiful church requiring some modernisation. The church has great potential to work in partnership with the local school.
St Chad’s, Rochdale – a grade 1 listed parish church of immense importance, looking to develop engagement with partners to reduce social isolation. It requires some fabric repairs.
St Mary’s, Prestwich – a church of significant historic importance looking to improve the fabric of the building, including re-roofing the medieval Wilton Chapel, with support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. St Mary’s has plans to share its heritage more widely with the community through new display materials, interactive features, children’s guide and a new heritage website. It will also host free heritage events and school visits.
As part of the project, the government is providing £500k of funding for minor repairs. A newly appointed Fabric Support Officer, Karen Heverin, will administer grants across the region and advise on ways to care for buildings. She will also run a series of training events to help local volunteers care for their buildings. A Community Support Officer, Rachel Lake, will help to encourage wider use of buildings to serve communities.
The Taylor Review acknowledged how passionately people feel about church buildings, which constitute some of the most inspiring architectural and landscape elements of our historic environment. Its recommendations focus on targeting resources and funding to promote care, maintenance and community engagement, while supporting the volunteers and church members who work tirelessly to keep church buildings in use and accessible.
Some of Manchester’s church buildings are already used to host foodbanks, breakfast and holiday clubs, credit unions and debt advice centres and support services for refuges and asylum seekers. They provide shelter for rough sleepers through the Greater Manchester Winter Night Shelter and offer places of welcome within their communities. They work in partnership with other church and faith groups and statutory and third sector agencies.
Heritage Minister, Mr Michael Ellis, said: “Historic faith buildings are a key part of our rich heritage and it is important they are protected.
“Every year thousands of volunteers dedicate a huge amount of time to their upkeep, but many need high levels of maintenance and repair. Through these pilots in Manchester and Suffolk, we will unlock the wider community potential of listed places of worship, and provide practical guidance to help preserve these much-loved buildings.”
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said “Church buildings are an important and much-loved part of the heritage of Greater Manchester. Many are also well used to provide much-needed community facilities. We are delighted that Manchester has been chosen for this pilot to help fund urgent repairs in some of our Listed buildings, and hope that the lessons learnt from the Pilot will help enable our churches to go on serving their communities for generations to come.”
Historic England Chief Executive, Duncan Wilson, said: “We are pleased to be taking the lead in this new partnership to see our listed places of worship looked after for the future. We are committed to supporting congregations who care for these extraordinary buildings and pleased that the Pilot will be looking not only at the buildings themselves, but also at how they can be imaginatively used so they can once again be at the heart of local communities.”