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Protection of Churches

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 26 April 2018

8. To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent discussions the Church of England has had with local authorities on protecting historic church buildings and settings. (904971)

The Church works closely with Historic England and other bodies to provide advice and guidance for local authorities. In most cases, good and sensible decisions are made. Disputes do arise in a small number of cases, such as at my own parish church, where the argument was eventually won that we could use a lead substitute product after the lead had been stolen twice.

I am grateful for that answer. St Mary the Virgin’s church in my constituency is a rare and beautiful example of one of the finest small Anglo-Saxon churches in the country, going back to the 7th century. It is threatened by a large-scale development and it has fallen to Historic England to submit objections. Historic England indicates that the proposals would have a harmful impact on the setting of the church and, indeed, of Seaham Hall. Is there a role for the Church of England or the Church Commissioners to object to such developments in order to protect the setting of churches of historical importance?

I understand that the local authority has taken a decision that would adversely affect the setting of this beautiful grade I listed Anglo-Saxon church. I will be in discussion with the diocese about what support we can provide as a stakeholder in this important decision.