A major change has been announced in the way that church repair and modernisation projects are funded in the UK by the Heritage Lottery Fund which uses money raised by National Lottery players to help protect heritage. From September 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Grants for Places of Worship programme will close to new applications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The programme may continue in Scotland, as it is a joint initiative with Historic Environment Scotland.
In its place, funding for repairs to places of worship will be available through HLF’s existing Our Heritage (up to £100,000) and Heritage Grants (up to £5million) programmes. These grants will be available to both listed and unlisted places of worship. Under the new arrangements, 100% of works and activities could be funded with no requirement for partnership funding, through the Our Heritage Programme. For larger schemes, more money will be available for individual places of worship. The Grants for Places of Worship awards were limited to £250,000 per application. Under Heritage Grants, applicants can apply for up to £5m per application.
Concerns have been expressed at the closure of the Grants for Places of Worship scheme. The Historic Religious Buildings Alliance said: “The HRBA is not in favour of the closure of GPOW. We think it is a retrograde step. Unfortunately HLF did not consult those working in this area before making its decision. It is hard to overstate the importance of HLF’s Grants for Places of Worship (GPOW) programme in supporting historic places of worship. Public funding to help congregations with unusually large repair bills has had various manifestations over the past forty years, first being funded by government, then by English Heritage (EH), then jointly with EH and HLF, and finally by HLF alone. The current scheme and its predecessors have played a key part in ensuring that the voluntary groups (mainly congregations) who look after these buildings have been able, year on year, to fund major repairs and keep the buildings accessible to anyone and everyone.”
The National Churches Trust said: “The National Churches Trust will work closely with the HLF to make sure that their new funding arrangements are understood by those looking after places of worship and assist congregations needing help and advice in making funding applications to the Our Heritage and Heritage Grants funding programmes. Indeed, there are some aspects of the new funding arrangements that improve the situation for places of worship, such as the fact that all HLF grants for churches will now be available for listed and unlisted places of worship, as has been the case with our grants for many years.”
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