Note of a meeting held at 23 Savile Row, London, W1, On Wednesday 21 March 2001

English Heritage - Richard Halsey, Graham Pledger, David Heath

CCCBR - John Anderson, Michael Henshaw, Alan Frost, Chris Rogers

1. The Joint Churches Grant Scheme - Richard Halsey reported that one application had been received which included work on bells: from St Mary's, Dover, where the proposed new bellframe would have the benefit of relieving the stress on the historic timbers presently supporting the later Warner bellframe. Dover's application to become a ringing centre had been quoted as a potential community benefit in support of their grant application

EH were currently advising the Heritage Lottery Fund on criteria for Streams 2 and 3 for next year's round. Applications would be accepted from a wider range of deprived areas and more money would be available for grants. Details were being sent to DAC secretaries, Archdeacons, etc. and would be posted on the HLF website.

2. VAT relief for listed places of worship - David Heath explained that this new grant, announced in the Chancellor's Budget Statement on 7 March, would apply in respect of VAT paid at 17.5% on repairs to listed places of worship where the works contract started on or after 1 April 2001. EH were being pressed for further advice but they had little further information. One positive aspect of the grant was that it could only be paid for work done by VAT registered builders, who tended to be more reliable.

3. Heritage Strategy Review - Richard Halsey said that the Government's response to the review was expected in the spring, but the timing could be affected by the General Election.

4. Cranfield, Bedfordshire - As had been mentioned in correspondence, John Anderson expressed concern that at the September meeting Cranfield had been raised as an urgent matter at very short notice, with the result that the CCCBR side had not been properly briefed. A perception had then arisen among ringers that the Council was supporting the EH view. Cases of difficulty should continue to be resolved outside the meetings where possible, but when it was necessary to raise them at the meetings both sides should be well briefed. Richard Halsey replied that Cranfield had been on the agenda in that it was a matter arising from the minutes of the previous meeting. Given that an important meeting on the case was to take place the next day, it would not have been right not to raise the matter.

Turning to the lessons to be learnt from the Cranfield case, Richard Halsey said that a major problem was the poor quality of the information from the architects and bellfounders, which made it difficult to distinguish the effect of the new work on the old. At an inquiry it was usually possible to agree historical facts, but this was not so at Cranfield. In such cases a high level of detail was needed, but the question arose as to who should pay for it. Alan Frost said that in cases involving historic bell frames a conservation statement should be produced at the outset. Richard Halsey added that new faculty jurisdiction rules required "statements of significance and need". Guidelines were needed on the production of such statements for bells and bellframes. Alan Frost suggested that the Code of Practice on the Conservation and Repair of Bells and Bellframes went some way to meeting this need, as did the Towers and Belfries Committee's guidelines (a copy of which he agreed to send to Graham Pledger).

Referring to the Cranfield judgement, David Heath said that EH wished to draw a line under it. The circumstances were unusual and the Chancellor had determined that the needs of the parish should have precedence, although the case for preservation had been well made.

5. Radio Aerials in churches - Richard Halsey confirmed that EH would be responding to the draft guidelines prepared by the Archbishops' Council's Telecommunications Working Party (to which the Central Council had already responded). He was generally content with the way in which the matter was being handled.

6, Installation of ringers' galleries - A paper by Gordon Halls had been circulated. Alan Frost said that each case had to be taken on its merits. In some places supporting beams could be satisfactorily inserted into the tower walls, but not in every case. Similarly, in some places access to a gallery could be created by cutting through from a spiral staircase, especially where a blocked up doorway already existed. Where it was possible to do so, this was usually the best solution. An advantage of installing a ringers' gallery in place of a ground floor ring was that a kitchen and toilets could be put in below it rather than in an extension to the church.

Richard Halsey agreed that each case should be considered on its merits. It was general EH policy that breaking into ancient fabric should be avoided. On the other hand a safe solution had to be found. He asked whether the other means of access to galleries mentioned in Mr Halls' letter were always considered to be unsafe. Michael Henshaw replied that in his view they were not so much unsafe as uncomfortable and unsightly. He felt that there should not be a presumption against opening up access from spiral staircases, although he accepted that any such work to a listed building had to be justified.

7. Twisting in steel foundation beams - Graham Pledger asked Alan Frost if he would explain the arguments he had submitted in writing to the Cranfield Consistory Court on the twisting of foundation beams. Alan Frost said that it was not generally sufficient for bell frames (old or new) to be supported on a single set of foundation beams because of the possibility of twisting. In his view foundation beams should span the tower in both directions and be built into all four walls.

Graham Pledger then sought Alan Frost's view on a "braced table" design. Alan Frost said that he was not opposed to such a design in principle, but at Cranfield it had been shown to the satisfaction of the Chancellor that a true braced table could not be installed satisfactorily. However, not being an engineer, he had not undertaken any calculations on it. Graham Pledger indicated that he would have been happy to design a "braced table" which would have worked satisfactorily.

8. Next meeting - It was agreed that the next meeting should take place on Wednesday 3 October 2001 at 5 pm.

The Ringing World, July 6, 2001, page 695