News and Current Issues

Pilgrim Trust funds first-ever Maintenance Grants

The Pilgrim Trust, a major grant-giving charity, announced last year that it was switching its church-repair grants entirely to maintenance.

It is funding a new scheme now in operation through the National Churches Trust, and details of the new scheme are available here. Churches applied for the first round of grants in January 2017 and there will be several further rounds during the year.

The move follows growing concern by the Trust that much repair work involves the destruction of a great deal of original fabric, which could, if properly maintained, last indefinitely.

Grants are now available for a wide range of minor works to remedy maintenance issues or make access simpler or safer.

“Sustainability” Review of Church of England Repairs nears completion

A Task Force set up to review the various repair grant schemes available to Church of England churches and Cathedrals is expected to report to the Treasury and the Department of Culture Media & Sport shortly.

The Review was set up in early 2016 in a little-noticed addendum to George Osborne’s budget. Its terms of reference can be seen here.

Among these are: “exploring new models of financing repairs and maintenance of churches and cathedrals, including reviewing existing maintenance costs and repairs funding from lottery and central government grants.“

Maintain gave the Task Force its comments on the present arrangements, which were that:

  •  We estimate that the Church of England’s listed churches (about 12,000) currently have a repair backlog of about £1.5bn, which is rising at £70M a year
  •  This partly because of poor maintenance by parishes, which is due to the dysfunctional nature of the Church’s “Quinquennial” inspection system, which ensures that churches are inspected by qualified architects every 5 years – but whose recommendations are not always carried out, notably on maintenance
  •  In addition, the long-standing refusal of both the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England to grant-aid maintenance means that there is a perverse incentive to ignore maintenance until major repairs are necessary.

Heritage Lottery Fund closes Church Grant Schemes

In a surprise move, HLF announced in March that it will close its £30M a year church-specific repair grant scheme later this year and merge it with its other grant schemes to which all eligible applicants can apply.

The GPOW scheme currently offers grants of £10k-£250k to fund urgent structural repairs and small amounts of building and facility enhancements such as toilets.

The move – on which HLF did not consult – has been greeted with serious concern by several organisations, including the Church of England and by the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, whose concerns are set out here.

Maintain publishes Briefing Note on Workplace Inspection & Maintenance

Maintain has published a Briefing Note on its interpretation of the effect of regulation 4A of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations1992.

These regulations in effect require buildings which are workplaces to be structurally adequate for the nature of the workplace, but also requires them to be maintained. HSE Guidance states that this means that the premises have to be regularly inspected by a competent person.
Click on the drop-down button above for an article on the scandalous state of UK legislation on building safety. The Briefing Note can be downloaded here.