Independent review calls for greater community use to give church buildings a sustainable future

Commissioned in 2016 to report to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport – this review considers the funding and sustainability of listed church buildings.  Published on 20/12/17, the press release for the review says….

” The review panel highlighted the best practice of many churches and of volunteers around the country, with buildings adapted and used for cafes, playgroups, and in some cases NHS and post office services. The panel said it wants to see more innovation of this kind.”

But the press release also commented that….

“Congregations are individually responsible for the care of their own buildings and despite the commitment and hard work of volunteers, the panel found a lack of consistency in the ability of many churches to carry out routine maintenance and repairs.”

The press release goes on to summarise the reviews recommendations as shown below – and says that these should be tested through pilot schemes in both rural and urban areas.

  • “creating a national network of Community Support Advisers to help churches identify and strengthen wide ranging relationships within their local area”.  The review hopes that “through greater community engagement, churches will be used more frequently and can maximise new funding options reflecting this broad community involvement.”
  • “creating a group of ‘Fabric Support Officers’ who have practical heritage buildings expertise to ensure that all churches have access to high quality advice”
  • churches should “develop annual minor repairs plans. This will mean that repairs can be addressed immediately and prevent the development of more costly major repair.”
  • churches should prepare ” a rolling ten-year major repairs plan” and that these be “kept up to date so that larger works can be planned and given the best chance of being properly funded.”

It’s worth looking at the letters in response to the report in the Church Times this week.  These wondered about the role of the proposed Fabric Support Officers and Community Support Advisers and questioned how far community use ideas for church buildings were viable for remote rural churches.

And it’s also interesting to compare the current report’s proposals with recommendations in the Church of England’s Church Buildings Review report, issued in 2015.




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