Historic churches threatened by funding cuts and climate change, warns National Churches Trust

Historic churches threatened by funding cuts and climate change, warns National Churches Trust

A big increase in the number of historic churches and chapels seeking funding for urgent repair, maintenance and development projects has been reported by the National Churches Trust in its Annual Review for 2017 – 2018, published on Monday 9 July 2018.

Figures in the UK’s church buildings support charity’s Annual Review show that it received 480 applications for grants in 2017, an increase of 26% on 2016.

The increase is due to a number of factors, including the worsening funding landscape for church buildings following cuts to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s grant programmes in 2017, and the end of the government funded Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund in 2016.

In 2017, the National Churches Trust awarded £1.7 million to help pay for 230 repair, maintenance and development projects at churches and chapels throughout the United Kingdom. This was an increase of £300,000 compared to the £1.4 million it awarded in 2016. In 2017, funding from the Trust helped to remove 29 churches from the Historic England ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.

In 2017, the Trust increased the provision of grants for maintenance work to fund small repairs in order to prevent the need for more expensive repairs in the future. 51 Maintenance Grants were awarded, made possible through the support of The Pilgrim Trust, totalling £104,006.

Claire Walker, CEO of the National Churches Trust said: “Over the last four years the National Churches Trust has experienced increasing demand for grants from churches and chapels across the UK with the number of applications rising from 300 in 2014 to 480 in 2017.”

“A number of factors have come together to create a tipping point for the future of many church buildings.”

“In 2017 we received more applications for grants to help repair and replace church roofs. This in part reflects the fact that the roofing of many Victorian churches is simply outliving its lifespan after over 100 years of exposure to the elements.”

“We are also seeing more churches needing to replace their rainwater goods. The intensity of extreme weather patterns, including heavier rainfall and storms, is putting church gutters and drains under strain and systems designed in the past cannot cope.“

“Looking to the future, the impact of climate change could have a serious impact on the UK’s historic churches.”

St. Botolph Boston

Lincolnshire, St. Botolph, Boston 2017

“Higher levels of rainfall in the UK, such as the 20% increase seen in Scotland since the 1960s, with more cycles of wetting and drying, will cause damage to timber and stonework.”

“Stronger winds and more frequent storms will threaten roofs, towers and spires.”

“Climate change is also making the UK ever more vulnerable to invasive pests. The biggest danger for church buildings would be from termites, which are now widespread in France, with infestations being found close to the Channel coast.”

“Over the coming years, many of the UK’s churches, chapels and meeting houses are going to need all the help they can get.“

The National Churches Trust Annual Review 2017 – 2018 can be downloaded at https://issuu.com/nationalchurchestrust/docs/nct_annual_review__final