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Redundant Churches

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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21.

How many redundant churches there are in the Greater London area. [113816]

Since 1969, a total of 131 churches have been declared redundant in the diocese of London, 72 in the diocese of Southwark, 27 in the diocese of Chelmsford and five in the diocese of Rochester.

I note my hon. Friend's reply. In many parts of London—certainly in my constituency—there are religious groups that are extremely popular within our communities, but the sad fact is that it is often very difficult for them to find suitable premises to follow their beliefs and to develop their congregations. Will my hon. Friend stress to the Church Commissioners that instead of letting empty and redundant churches stay in that condition for long periods, they should offer them to our religious groups? That would be greatly appreciated by those groups, by their local communities and most certainly by the local Members of Parliament.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will be happy to know that more than 900 former churches have been found new uses. More than two-thirds of those continue to serve the community by providing facilities for worship, social facilities, educational opportunities or low-cost housing. Uses by another Christian body or for wider community purposes are generally regarded as the most suitable. I shall be happy to consider whether we can be helpful in that respect in my hon. Friend's constituency.