Memorandum submitted by Trevor Cooper
1. My expertise lies in facts and figures
relating to Church of England churches, which provide the bulk
of listed places of worship. However, a good deal of what I say
below will apply to places of worship of other Christian denominations,
and to other faiths, and will be relevant outside England.
2. Please note that in this submission I
do not deal with cathedrals, and greater churches. Their issues
and needs are rather different from most churches and chapels.
3. I have responded to just two of the questions
posed by the Committee:
Priorities for the forthcoming Heritage
4. Much of the information in this submission
is drawn from my book, How do we keep our parish churches? A copy
is enclosed, and further copies can be provided to the committee
What the Department for Culture, Media & Sport
should identify as priorities in the forthcoming Heritage White
5. The White Paper provides an opportunity
to devise a new partnership with those responsible for listed
places of worship. There are a large number of such buildings,
and they are used and valued by a high proportion of the population,
and provide an important cultural and social resource. But the
buildings are the responsibility of a tiny number of volunteers,
who are coming under increasing pressure.
6. There is clear market failure, and present
measures for dealing with this have emerged piecemeal. I do not
believe that current arrangements are entirely sustainable over
the longer term, and this is a good time to consider what form
of partnership is needed with the volunteers who care for these
buildings. This is not just about money.
7. In what follows, I look at:
the care of listed churches;
their cultural and social role;
the emerging pressures on voluntary
8. I conclude with possible ways in which
effective partnership might be developed.
9. Whereas English Heritage and the National
Trust have between them considerably fewer than one thousand buildings,
there are at least 14,000 listed places of worship in England
(Table 1), mostly churches and chapels. Almost one half (45%)
of England's entire stock of Grade I listed buildings are Church
of England churches.
NUMBER OF LISTED PLACES OF WORSHIP IN ENGLAND
|Church of England||12,200
|Other nonconformist||?? 500
Sources: personal communication from denominations, except Church of England (Cooper, Parish Churches); Baptist, estimate from Newman report on Ecclesiastical Exemption; Synagogues, website of Jewish Heritage UK; mosques, personal communication, English Heritage.
10. Churches and chapels are different from most listed buildings
in that they are looked after by volunteers, not by owners having
a beneficial interest. For most of the volunteers, time and money
is spent for love of the building, or enthusiasm for the work
which takes place there. As we shall see, the building is the
base for a great deal of community work. It follows that any government
policy for listed church buildings which regards them purely as
heritage, and simply a matter for the DCMS, misses one of the
most important aspectsthe volunteers who care for them.
11. These volunteers form a rather small percentage of the
population. In the case of Church of England churches, the 12,000
listed buildings are looked after by about 3% of the adult population
(the so-called "electoral roll" of supporters).
ADULT AVERAGE SUNDAY ATTENDANCE AT CHURCH OF ENGLAND PARISHES
(2001) (12,951 PARISHES; TOTAL ADULT ATTENDANCE = 868,000) ALL
|Adult average Sunday attendance
||Parishes with this attendance
Note: some parishes have more than one church, so
the number of parishes is fewer than the number of churches (=
Source: Archbishops' Council, Church of England.
12. There are some very tiny voluntary groups (congregations)
looking after churches. This is not surprising. The two thousand
smallest rural villages and hamlets have an average population
of about 200 people each, so that 12% of Church of England church
buildings are today in communities together containing less than
1% of the population. As a result, roughly 800 parishes (6%) have
ten adults or fewer worshipping on a Sunday (see Table 2). As
the table also makes clear, at the other end of the scale, some
churches are thriving. Note: some parishes have more than one
church building, so the number of parishes (12,951) is smaller
than the total number of churches (about 16,200).
13. Some of the most attractive and important church buildings
lie in areas of low population, and thus have the least viable
Cost of repairs
14. The Church of England is widely regarded as being immensely
rich, perhaps even
beyond the dreams of avarice, and this bedevils discussion about
the funding of church buildings. The Church does have a substantial
endowment (though, to put it in context, it is five times smaller
than that of Harvard University), and a generation ago the income
from this paid a large proportion of the clergy salaries. But
the majority is now put aside to pay pensions, and ordinary churches
receive less than 50 pence per churchgoer per week. Almost all
of that goes to help with the costs of clergy and other workers,
with the focus on more needy areas. In fact, rather than rolling
in money, many dioceses (which act as independent units) are in
some financial difficulty.
15. The cost of repairs to Church of England church buildings
is running at about £100 million per year (2003), and rising.
Something under a third of this comes from public funds: English
Heritage and HLF grants (available only for large, "emergency"
repairs), VAT relief and Landfill tax. The private charitable
sector provides other grants, and the remainder, approximately
£65 million, comes from the pockets of the congregations
looking after the buildings, and their fund raisingan average
of £5,000 per church per year raised by their own efforts.
SPENDING ON MAJOR REPAIRS TO CHURCH OF ENGLAND CHURCH
BUILDINGS, BY AMOUNT OF SPEND (2001) TOTAL REPAIR SPEND WAS £86.4
|Amount spent||Parishes with this repair spend
|up to £1k||91,170
|More than £50k||2
|100% = 12,951
Note: recent years have seen higher total spend.
Source: Archbishops' Council, Church of England.
16. But the average is misleading (Table 3). Most churches
spend rather less than the average per year. For example, approximately
one half (42%) of Church of England parishes spend nothing on
repairs in any particular year (based on 2001 figures). The same
number (43%) spend less than £10k on repairs in a year. In
a given year, only about 2% of parishes have to spend more than
17. Thus an individual church might reasonably expect to
go for twenty years spending an average of £2,500 per year,
and fifty years without having to fund a repair bill of more than
18. This pattern of occasional, unpredictable, very expensive
events is difficult for small voluntary organizations to handle:
should they hire a youth worker today, or put aside money for
unknown future repairs which may never be needed?
PROPORTION OF PARISHES WITH VARIOUS RANGES OF INCOME (2001)
|Income*||Parishes with this income
|100% = 12,951 parishes
|*unrestricted ordinary income.||
Source: Archbishops' Council, Church of England
19. As expected, parish incomes differ enormously. More than
1,500 parishes have income of less than £5,000 per annum
(see Table 4). For these voluntary groups, and for many of the
others, paying large repair bills from income is not possible.
Furthermore, the smaller the congregation, the harder it is for
them to organise themselves for fund-raising and grant applications.
20. In summary, listed Church of England churches are found
everywhere, and are widely accessible. Their repair is partly
funded by the State, but two-thirds of the cost comes directly
from volunteers and from their fund-raising. They make up only
about 3% of the adult population. Some of the voluntary groups
(congregations) are tiny, and have small incomes. Repair bills
are lumpy, and organising to deal with large repairs may stretch
smaller groups to the limit.
21. The next section explores what value the wider community
obtains from these buildings.
Value placed on places of worship by public
22. Although supported by so few, the enjoyment of these
buildings, and the sense of place which they create is widely
valued. In a survey carried out in October 2003, almost two-thirds
of respondents (63%) said they would be concerned if their local
church/chapel were no longer there Almost as many (59%) saw the
building as a local landmark, or historic place (53%).1 These
high figures confirm the importance of places of worship in creating
a valued local sense of place.
Use by wider population
23. The buildings are used by most of the population. A survey
conducted in October 2003 (see Table 5) showed that 89% had visited
a church/place of worship during the year, and the figure was
almost as high (80%) for those who claimed "no religion".
In contrast, the rather smaller figure of 51% had visited a cinema
in that year. There was a range of purposes for the visit to a
place of worshiprites of passage were the most commonbut
it was also noticeable that for 24% of city dwellers, they simply
sought a quiet space.
ADULTS VISITING VARIOUS PLACES DURING PREVIOUS YEAR
|Place||Percentage of adults
|Church/place of worship (2003)||
|Museum or gallery (2002)||
|Football match (2000)||
Sources: ORB survey carried out on behalf of English
Heritage/Church of England, October 2003; Mori poll reported in
Heritage Monitor 2003; Mori poll commissioned by English Heritage,
MayJune 2000, available on Mori website
24. Listed churches and chapels also play an importantthough
not fully understoodpart in the tourist economy. The number
of church visitors is very large, lying somewhere between 10 million
and 50 million per year. Indeed, it is possible that the number
of visits to parish churches may be greater than the combined
sum of visits to Cathedrals and all the buildings owned by English
Heritage, the National Trust and the Historic Houses Association
(see Table 6). The difference is that ordinary churches have no
turnstiles, and cannot charge.
NUMBER OF VISITS TO VARIOUS PROPERTY TYPES (2004-05, except
where stated) ALL FIGURES ROUNDED. VISITOR NUMBERS FOR PARISH
|Number of properties (rounded)
||Number of visitors per annum (million)
||Annual cost of non-routine repairs £m
|Church of England listed parish
|Historic Houses (privately owned)|
|English Heritage pay-for-entry sites||400
|National Trust pay-for-entry buildings and gardens
|* About one half open regularly to the public; the remainder provide some form of public access
**Based on speech by Tim Reeve, Property Development and Operations Director, 28 June 2005. It is difficult to be sure which cost line in the accounts refers to major repairs.
Sources: Churches, Cathedrals, and Historic
Houses: Cooper, Parish Churches and Archbishops' Council,
Church of England; English Heritage and the National Trust, annual
25. The majority (55% on average) of Church of England churches
are freely open to visitors, to enjoy free of charge, despite
the risk of vandalism. Hereford, for example, a deeply rural county,
manages an astonishing 84% of open churches.2 And there is untapped
potential here: we now know that a concerted attempt to open places
of worship of all types, make them welcoming, and help visitors
find them, can increase throughput, and helps bring communities
together (see Fig 1. above for two examples). But the churches
retain rather little financial benefit from such efforts, and
they can be costly in volunteer time.
26. It is well known that the National Trust relies on endowments
to help support its properties. English Heritage makes an operational
deficit on its properties, running at about £5 million per
year, funded by the taxpayer. (I am not clear whether this deficit
includes the cost of major repairs; I suspect not.) It is planning
to reduce this deficit to zero over the next few years, by boosting
membership, increasing income from turnstiles, and investing some
£21 million of taxpayers' money in improving the way their
estate is presented, and the quality of facilities they provide
27. This demonstrates the costs (or public value) and difficulty
of running historic buildings for the benefit of visitors, even
when supported by a membership structure, staff to collect admission
fees, and with guaranteed capital funding. None of these factors
apply to listed places of worship: volunteers look after the buildings,
giving free entry to anyone, with no endowment, no guaranteed
capital funding (though grants are sometimes available), and no
28. There is a further consideration. Even tourists who do
not visit churches probably enjoy the landscape value of well-kept
buildings in public use. As far as I know, the value of this has
not been quantified: it may be significant.
29. It goes almost without saying that not only are listed
churches themselves often beautiful, but they contain an astonishing
array of cultural artefactsa national repository of heritage,
far more extensive than any of our great museums. For example,
there are an estimated 8,000 medieval stained glass windows in
our churches. The V&A has about 100. (And up and down the
country, congregations are paying to protect to their stained
glass windows against growing vandalism.)
30. The V&A has 15 pieces by John Flaxman, one of England's
most important and accessible sculptors. That is a fine collection.
But there are twelve times as many items (190) by this sculptor
in churchesmonuments and busts in their original settings,
close to where the widow grieved or the parents mournedand
personal observation suggests that such tombs and memorials have
a lasting fascination to visitors of all ages.4
31. Who looks after all this? Insuring, restoring, repairing
and maintainingeven dusting!this cultural heritage
all falls on the individual voluntary groups.
32. Churches are a home for cultural activity. More than
eight million people say they have been to a concert or similar
event in a church or other place of worship in the past year,
about the same as attendance at West End theatres by UK residents.
One half (49%) of rural Church of England church buildings (about
4,000) host such events (note that most rural Anglican churches
do not have church halls). One in eight rural churches (12%) are
used for art exhibitions.5
33. There is a problem with kitchens, with heating, and with
toilets. Congregations are adding these facilities to church buildings
(often at their own expense), but it is a slow process: at the
current rate, it will be the end of this century before all rural
churches have toilets (based on a 1994 survey). We know that adding
simple facilities to rural church buildingstoilets, kitchens,
meeting areascan make a big difference to community engagement.
And we also know that this is considerably cheaper than building
a village hall. With around a quarter of villages of less than
3,000 inhabitants lacking a village hall, there is plenty of opportunity.6
34. Some churches, including listed churches, are converting
their premises in active support of local regeneration. In its
simplest form, an over-sized building can be part let to a secular
tenant, turning a historic building into an income-generating
asset. There are a large number of urban examples, though we lack
the research to know exactly how many, or what works best. There
are also some intriguing examples in rural areasWinforton,
Herefordshire, for example, where the secular Parish Council and
church Parochial Council have together co-funded the re-flooring
and opening up of the nave of the church building to provide a
community space: worship is carried out in the chancel.
Home for community service
35. Many churches see community service as a core part of
their mission. In the past few years an explosion of research
has confirmed what many of us suspectedthat faith groups
are far and away the largest assemblage of social volunteers in
36. I estimate that the contribution to community well-being
from Christian faith groups alone is probably more than £750
million per year in equivalent wage-costs (if one feels like measuring
concern for others in financial terms), much of which benefits
those who are not members of the congregations concerned.7
37. Buildings are an integral part of this activity, but
it is not clear the extent to which historic buildings benefit
from the available funding streams. And there is considerable
anecdotal evidence that some faith groups find themselves disadvantaged
in applying for social funding.
38. To summarise: there is good evidence that church buildings
are used and valued by the wider community, that they have very
significant cultural value, that they provide a home base for
a very large group of social volunteers, and that they can be
valuable centres of social regeneration.
39. If everything is going so well, what is the problem?
The next section looks at pressures on the volunteers who are
at the centre of all this activity.
Too many churches in the wrong places
40. The Church of England continues to provide church buildings
for growing centres of population, and in the last 30 years approximately
530 new churches have been built. Even so, the location of approximately
two-thirds of Church of England churches was decided before the
Industrial Revolution. It is not surprising that many churches
and chapels today are not close to centres of population. Furthermore,
our Victorian forefathers became over-enthusiastic in church building,
and added to the stock.
41. As a result, the country is over-churched, with many
churches in the wrong place. Based on one sample, it may be that
as little as 15% of church seating is used on Sundays in rural
areas.8 But with Church of England listed buildings, the option
taken by other networkssuch as pubs, garages, banks, Post
Offices, schools and A&E unitsof simply closing under-used
distribution outlets, is not easily available.
42. England is not alone in finding that its churches are
not in the right place. In America, thousands of church buildings
are under serious threat due to population movements and the use
of the car to travel to larger centres on Sunday.
43. Western European countries also have this problem, and
the additional one of declining church attendance. But in many
of these countries the State has taken an explicit and formal
role in the care of historic church buildings, or in collecting
money for them, allowing the church to concentrate on its religious
and social mission. The United Kingdom is rather unusual amongst
Western European nations in the lack of formal state responsibility
for historic churches.
Trends in attendance
44. For most English denominations, there has been a slow
drift downward in attendance at church on Sundays, averaging something
over 1% per annum over the past few decades for adults in the
Church of England. Attendance at Sunday worship is not the same
as support for the building, but any drop in numbers does add
to the financial burden on those remaining. In the Church of England,
this has coincided with a pensions crisis, which has seen central
subsidy of the clergy costs drop enormously, and giving by churchgoers
rise considerably faster than inflation.
45. Understandably, many congregations are focusing their
attention on reversing the trend in attendance, and with this
increased emphasis on the mission of the church, and increasing
financial pressures, are beginning to question the cost and effort
attached to their role as preservers of society's cultural heritage.
46. Of course, growing congregations face a different problemhow
to extend and convert their listed buildings to handle increasing
numbers, without spoiling the building.
Pressures on time and money
47. Churches face the same burdens and costs as other organisations,
together with those that are particular to the maintenance of
historic buildings. For voluntary groups, however, reliant on
enthusiasm, and often short of time and money, these pressures
can be especially discouraging. There is a definite sense that
these demands have increased in recent years (Table 7).
RECENT OR INCREASING PRESSURES ON TIME AND MONEY OF VOLUNTARY
GROUPS LOOKING AFTER AND USING LISTED PLACES OF WORSHIP
|Disability Discrimination Act|
|Child Protection Act|
|Craft skills shortage / heritage requirements
|Insurance (arson, vandalism)Statements of significance (possible future requirement)
|Licensing lawsHealth and safety, including working at heights (light bulbs, gutters)
|Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations
|Property Risk Assessments|
|Electrical services inspection Individual registration as charities (possible future requirement)
48. Many of the financial difficulties faced by churches
can be categorised as market failure. For example, although many
people value their local church building even if they don't regularly
attend, there is no easy mechanism to convert this into financial
support. Parish Councils are allowed to help with church repairs,
but seem not to (it may be that government could usefully take
a lead here).
49. Similarly, although many small businesses gain from visitors
to churches, and tourists who value the environmental impact of
the church, churches capture very little of this value.
50. I have tried to outline the cultural and social importance
of listed church buildings. and have emphasised the fact that
they are looked after by a rather small number of volunteers (3%
of the population in the case of Church of England churches).
In a first attempt to look at the whole picture in financial terms
(Table 8), it would seem that the public get good value. In addition,
we must not overlook, in the Secretary of State's words, the way
these buildings can "inspire and engage us with their beauty,
truth, or visceral reality".9
PUBLIC VALUE FROM CHURCHES AND CHAPELS
Indicative only. Some figures estimated on inadequate information.
Don't quote without health warning!
|Paid for from public purse||
|Public repair grants per annum to listed places of worship
|Provided by church volunteers||
|Community work provided by listed church and chapel members (measured at minimum wage value)
|Expenditure on repairs||60++
|Value of volunteer time in administration, minor works, and making building accessible, plus free professional advice
|Care, insurance, maintenance of cultural artefacts in listed buildings
|Cultural and social value arising, directly and indirectly
|Direct: Value of community work provided by listed church and chapel members
|Indirect: Value of local trade generated by those who have visited a church or chapel
|Indirect: Value to visitors and tourists of free entry
|Indirect: Value of listed building in creating `sense of place' to those living in the area
|Indirect: Value of well-kept listed buildings in encouraging tourism through attractive environment
|Direct: Community value attached to use for exhibitions, concerts, etc
|Direct: Availability for use for rites of passage, contemplation etc
1. HLF, EH, VAT refund. Varies each year.
2. See Cooper, Parish Churches, p 43.
3. Figure for 2003 for all Church of England churches only.
Excludes other denominations (figure not available), so understated.
4. Assuming 32,000 churchwardens at 3 hours per week each,
at minimum wage, plus 1000 individuals serving as advisors free
of charge (see A Future for Church Buildings, CHF, 2003).
5. Say 30 million visitors (see discussion above), valuing
their visit at £1 each (approximately one quarter typical
cathedral entry fee). Assume £2.50 expenditure per visitor
on local businesses (approximately one quarter of typical day
6. Value will depends if venue free of charge or subsidised
51. These voluntary groups are now under increasing pressure.
No-one can forecast what will happen next, but in my view, in
the medium term these pressures will probably lead to a significant
increase in the number of listed church buildings lost to the
public. It would therefore be sensible to use the White Paper
to consider options for developing partnership. It would be a
great pity to have to revisit the whole subject again in 10 years
time, when matters might have developed a greater urgency.
52. Such a partnership might have a number of themes, such
Cross-departmental government structures which
take into account the symbiosis between volunteer and listed building.
Enthusiasm for the role and value of listed church
buildings in service delivery in urban and rural communities,
with the spreading of best practice.
A positive approach to, and engagement with, the
Encouragement of local support, and devising of
means by which it can be channelled; and similarly for national
"Church-proofing" of policies affecting
voluntary work in the community, and the social infrastructure,
especially of smaller communities.
Fair access to social funds.
A settled view as to the cultural importance of
the buildings, and the enrichment this brings, and cooperation
with the relevant voluntary groups in furthering access.
Research into, and central enthusiasm for church
Imaginative ownership and management structures
for listed church buildings (for example, leasing back to congregations,
or community ownership), probably on a mix and match basis.
A coherent policy for the role of listed buildings
no longer required for routine worship.
53. Some of the above are reflected in the activities of
the Inspired! campaign to be launched by English Heritage later
this year. But they need a robust fixity of purpose, and to be
embedded in "business as usual". Some need legislation.
Some need funding. Some need political will and leadership, to
ensure co-operation between stakeholders who have overlapping,
but not identical, objectives. None of this is trivial, but I
would argue that it is worthwhile
54. The final need is for robust funding. I note that the
Church of England suggest that 50% of repair costs should be publicly
funded. I would hope there is some sympathy for that view. But
I would also hope that the White Paper would be more imaginative
than simply bumping up the current levels of financial support
for large emergency repairs. There are other opportunities:
cyclic, routine maintenance is increasingly expensive,
and thus difficult for cash-strapped congregationsshould
this be directly supported?
is there room for a government-backed savings
/ soft-loan scheme for repairs?
might it be possible to devise a risk-pooled `insurance'
scheme for repairs?
should public funds be set aside for improving
the facilities of listed places of worship, especially in rural
areas where the church is often the only remaining public building
(the shop, the Post Office, the pub all having closed)?
what help can be given to the smaller voluntary
groups in fund-raising and project management, or creating a buildings
what assistance should be given to small repairs
is there a case for an endowed UK Churches Trust,
to provide stability and political independence over the longer-term,
and perhaps provide a focus for individual support?
55. In short, the White Paper presents a marvellous opportunity
for fresh thinking in the development of a long-term partnership
with those responsible for listed places of worship.
Funding, with particular reference to the adequacy of the budget
for (a) English Heritage and for (b) museums and galleries, (c)
the impact of the London 2012 Olympics on lottery funding for
heritage projects, and (d) forthcoming decisions on the sharing
of funds from Lottery sources between good causes
56. It is difficult for an outsider to get a handle on the
funding of English Heritage. Its published accounts, though models
of clarity, simply do not give enough detail to understand the
grant-in-aid being provided by DCMS each year.
57. The graph below represents my best estimate of the core
grant-in-aid from DCMS over the past decade. I have ignored capital
grants, as it seems likely from published sources that these are
used either for internal purposes or to improve English Heritage's
own sites, neither of which are directly helpful to its clients.
58. The graph allows for inflation, and shows a sharp drop
in funding over the period. If my figures are right, they show
an unfortunate reduction in the State's willingness to fund heritage.
This is worrying, not least in the light of English Heritage's
view that the Heritage Protection Review has significant resource
59. English Heritage's funding agreement 2003-04 to 2005-06
(revised February 2005) states that it might seek grants from
other government departments, namely ODPM and DEFRA, given their
interest in its work. English Heritage's published accounts do
not make it clear whether these other departments have provided
any funds. It would be interesting to know.
60. English Heritage has recently been reorganising itself
to meet new challenges, but there can be little doubt that the
cut in funds has led to an unwanted reduction in staffing levels.
I have found only one public pronouncement on this, the comment
that 11% of posts in place in the year 2000 were removed by mid-2005.10
But staff numbers, and presumably staff posts increased between
2000 and 2004 by about 12%. So it could be that as many as 23%
of posts (11% + 12%) have recently been lost.
I doubt it is this many, but some observers have suggested that
the organisation has had to cut into muscle as well as fat
61. As far as I can tell from published data, English Heritage
uses a single grant-in-aid sum both to run its operations and
make its grants to outside bodies. Any pressure on its overall
grant-in-aid budget has therefore to be shared in some way between
operations and grants.
62. This pressure on grants is well demonstrated by the graph
below, which shows grants for repairs to listed places of worship
(but not cathedrals) over the past 10 years, allowing for inflation.
Given that building costs rise considerably faster than inflation,
the actual usefulness of the English Heritage grant to places
of worship has declined much faster than shown here.
63. Each one million pound reduction could mean (on average)
a dozen fewer places of worship receiving grants in that year.
Many churches will quite often simply not go ahead if a grant
is not available. Thus the reduction from the high point of 1995
might mean that some 750 places of worship have not carried out
urgent, expensive, repairs which they otherwise would.
64. Public money is available to listed places of worship
from the Aggregates Levy (a few million pounds per year), English
Heritage (discussed above), and two other sources: the Heritage
Lottery Fund and the Listed Places of Worship scheme, discussed
in the following paragraphs.
65. The Heritage Lottery Fund provides substantial grants
(of the order of £15 million to £20 million in recent
years) for the repair of listed churches, in a scheme jointly
administered with English Heritage. The scheme is oversubscribed
by a factor of approximately two to one. It typically grants 65%
of the cost of repairs, leaving the remainder for the congregation
to find. As I have said elsewhere, this joint scheme "may
be regarded as the `superpower' in the sector . . . Any withdrawal
would have a major impact." Until the future of the Heritage
Lottery Fund is settled, there will be real concern about the
future of this crucial source of support.
66. In addition, support is provided by the Listed Places
of Worship Scheme. This enables VAT paid on repairs to be reclaimed.
After a slow start, it has been a considerable success, with more
than £30 million being reclaimed since launch in 2001. It
has been extended until 2008, and a similar scheme for memorials
has recently been introduced (including their construction as
well as repair). A particular feature of the scheme is the fact
that it applies to relatively small repairs, unlike the English
Heritage/Heritage Lottery Fund joint scheme. It is to be hoped
the scheme can continue, or that negotiation with our European
partners allows the applicable VAT rate to be reduced.
67. The Churches Conservation Trust is a statutory body,
set up in 1969. In its care are Church of England church buildings
which are no longer required for worship, but which are regarded
as too important to demolish, and for which no suitable use can
be found. The Trust now looks after more than 330 churches. The
churches are used for a wide variety of cultural, social and educational
activities, and, in some cases, as a centre for regeneration.
68. The Trust is primarily funded by a grant, agreed every
three years. Of this, the government pays 70% via the DCMS. The
other 30% is paid for by the Church Commissioners of the Church
69. For the three years beginning 2003, the grant was set
at £4.2 million per annum. This is a reduction of 5% in real
terms from the previous three years, at the instigation of DCMS
(the Church of England was prepared to raise the grant). My assessment,
based on published data, is that it will now be difficult for
the Trust to accept new churches without reducing the ongoing
maintenance of its current portfolio of fine buildings.11 It is
a pity that the future of these important buildings should have
been put at risk in this way.
70. I hope I have demonstrated that "investing in the
preservation and presentation of these places is an investment
in our national identity, an investment in our future, and an
investment in social personal capital", as much for listed
places of worship as for Stonehenge, Fountains Abbey or Hadrian's
1 Cooper, How do we Keep our Parish Churches, Tables
2 The website www.digiatlas.net collects church opening figures,
and they are available for about twenty counties.
3 Tim Reeve, English Heritage Property Development &
Operations Director, Speech 28 June 2005.
4 Martin Harrison, "Stained glass" in Change
and Decay (eds. Marcus Binney and Peter Burman), 1977; Paul
Williamson, Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria
and Albert Museum, 2003; Rupert Gunnis, Dictionary of British
Sculptors, 1660-1851, second edition, n.d.; Diane Bilbey,
British Sculpture 1470 to 2000, 2002.
5 Cooper, Parish Churches, page 37, Table 4.2.
6 Cooper, Parish Churches, page 39, Table 4.4. For
the impact of new facilities, see the report by Susan Rowe, `A
review of the rural churches in community service programme',
7 Cooper, Parish Churches, 41.
8 Cooper, Parish Churches, 48.
9 DCMS, Better Places to Live, 2005.
10 Simon Thurley, Chief Executive English Heritage, Speech
28 June 2005.
11 Cooper, Parish Churches, 31.
12 Quotation from DCMS, Better Places to Live, 2005,
referring to the three major sites mentioned.
An alternative myth is that it lost all its money in speculative
property investments. Some people believe both. Back
Because it is difficult to count visitors to all but the largest
churches, the numbers are estimates. We badly need further research
on visitor numbers to churches and chapels, the value placed on
the experience by visitors, and the economic contribution this
makes to local communities: attempts have been made, but they
lack the necessary rigour to make a robust economic case. Back
This analysis allows for the fact that the year 2000 was the
date at which English Heritage staff numbers first started including
those of the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments, which was
later to merge with English Heritage. Back
Or a reduction in average grant size. The statistics available
to me do not make it clear which of the two has occurred. Back