We must support our historic churches - Nigel Huddleston

AS the Minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism, I am always heartened to see our historic churches and places of worship of all faiths evoke passion and commitment.

Churches like St George's Church in Leeds are having to conform to social distancing - even for weddings. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Our historic churches have served as focal points for their local communities for tens, hundreds and even thousands of years.

Across the country, historic parish churches are the lifeblood of the communities they serve and the Government support the maintenance of historic churches throughout the UK through the listed places of worship grant scheme.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The vast majority of historic working churches are listed buildings, and are therefore eligible for support under the scheme, which was established in 2001 to provide grants towards VAT paid on repairs and maintenance.

The Government is committed to preserving historic places of worship like York Minster.

Since its inception, the scheme has made grants totalling more than £285m and has played a significant part in ensuring that listed places of worship are in their best overall condition for many years. The scheme presently handles around 7,000 claims a year, is open to all faiths and denominations and is delivered UK-wide.

In 2012, my Department and the Treasury became joint funders of the scheme, with the annual funding increased to £42m. The level of funding 
is guaranteed up to March 31, 2021, and any extension to the scheme is on hold until the completion of the spending review.

Further, since 1994, the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded more than £985m to more than 6,400 projects supporting the UK’s places of worship.

In response to the extraordinary times we are now all facing, the fund has refocused its efforts to provide a package of emergency support to help the country’s heritage sector.​

The Government says it recognises the historical value of local churches.

Read More

Read More
Have faith in our churches as they emerge from lockdown – Leslie Newton

I have had weekly calls with representatives from the heritage sector about the impacts of Covid-19, including representatives from the Church of England.

Those calls have been incredibly useful and the Government is committed to supporting all heritage organisations, including historic places of worship through the coronavirus outbreak.

To help our historic places of worship get back on their feet, it is important that we help them reopen as soon as possible and as safely as possible.

The heritage working group that I chair, together with the places of worship working group, chaired by the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, have provided input into the guidance we published last month.

That offers in-depth guidance for places of worship, with specific advice for those based in historic buildings. The Government are keeping their advice under close review.

In response to feedback received from organisations across all sectors, the Government has announced an unprecedented stream of support schemes.

The highly visible job retention scheme is one part of that, but, with regard to support specifically targeted at the heritage sector, Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund are also administering grant funding worth more than £55m.

The grants will help organisations, voluntary groups and self-employed contractors to survive the immediate challenges posed by coronavirus.

Historic England launched a second emergency fund on June 9 to help to fund urgent maintenance repairs and investigations for heritage at risk. The fund ​will award grants of up to £25,000.

We recognise that, notwithstanding these generous support schemes, there will still be challenges for our historic places of worship.

They will face these challenges over the coming months as we resume normal activities following the pandemic, and we are committed to keeping the dialogue going and seeking to support this sector in whatever way we can.

I know how important our historic churches are and want to see them and the country recover and thrive.

Our historic churches are vital assets, treasured for their heritage, community and social value, and they must be protected for generations to come and this Government will continue to vigorously support them.

Nigel Huddleston is a Culture Minister. He spoke in a Commons debate on historic churches – this is an edited version.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson