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Church Repairs

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 11 December 2014

In the autumn statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer kindly extended the listed places of worship grant scheme, for which I am extremely grateful. This will be a one-off grant of £15 million to enable listed church buildings of any denomination to apply for assistance with repairs to roofs and rainwater guttering.

Can my right hon. Friend give the House any further details about the criteria for applying for a grant and what the deadline is? I understand that there is a fairly tight time scale in which churches must apply if they want to make use of the scheme.

My hon. Friend is right. The time scale is quite tight. Any church that has problems with its roof or its guttering should apply for funding. There is a website, www.lpowroof.org.uk, which shows all the details. Grants are available from £10,000 to £100,000. Repairing roofs is often unglamorous but very necessary work and there are a number of churches that require repairs to their roof.

As this is the last Church Commissioners questions before Christmas and the last question before Christmas, may I share with the House an observation? I saw yesterday in St Ethelburga’s church in the City, an old Saxon church that was bombed by the IRA and rebuilt, on the eastern window the prayer, “O pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.

Further to the reply that my right hon. Friend has just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) about the rather challenging deadline for bids, 31 January is the date by which churches have to get in their bids and my right hon. Friend will understand that vicars have seasonal commitments during the next few weeks. Is there any flexibility in that deadline for those who cannot meet it?

If my right hon. Friend has a church in his diocese that wants to submit a bid, I am sure that the diocesan advisory committee and the diocesan office in the diocese of Winchester will make quite sure that it is submitted properly and fully by the deadline.

I very much welcome the answer given by my right hon. Friend. The Holy Trinity church in Twydall in my constituency is in urgent need of repair and would qualify. Rather than having to look this up on the internet, have all churches been written to as a matter of urgency with an explanation of the criteria and how to apply for this funding?

I have written to every right hon. and hon. colleague in the House explaining how they apply for these funds, and the churches and cathedrals division in Church House has written to every bishop, archdeacon and diocesan advisory committee. So there can be no excuse for anyone within the machinery of the Church of England not understanding that these grants have been made available by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They are there and ready to be taken up, and if any parish that has problems with a roof or guttering gets in touch with its diocesan office, it should be able to get a properly submitted bid in on time.