Meeting with English Heritage

Notes of a meeting held at 23, Savile Row, London, W1 on Wednesday, 3rd October 2001

English Heritage - Richard Halsey, Graham Pledger, David Heath

CCCBR - John Anderson, Michael Henshaw, Adrian Dempster, Ian Oram

1. The Joint Churches Grants Scheme

(a) St Mary's Dover - CCCBR representatives had asked why this application had been unsuccessful. The English Heritage South East Regional Office had assessed the case with Graham Pledger's help: while it met the criteria on technical grounds, it was considered that, by reassessing priorities, the parish had sufficient funds for the eligible work. EH's first concern remained the fabric of the building and although willing to take account of the needs of the church's congregation (whether it be to restore bells, provide toilet facilities, etc) grants could only be offered where there was a clear financial need for them to complete the necessary works.

(b) Stream 3 - the deadline for applications was 30th September, some 50 applications had been received. Richard Halsey was not aware of any bell projects but would advise CCCBR if any are identified.

(c) Future of Scheme - Richard Halsey reported that HLF were carrying out a fabric needs assessment study. CCC was interested in identifying other needs and had commissioned a study of churches in the Ripon diocese (about 25 churches) to discover what work could be identified as needing repair and other essential work over the next 5 years. It was possible that the CCC might be asked by HLF to run a "contents" grant scheme, which in turn could also involve other national organisations like CCCBR.

Richard Halsey explained that HLF were keen to do more than just repair the fabric: they were trying to establish what they can do to help and who they can help: it was clear that apart from the fabric, there were other areas it could support, e.g. monuments, wall paintings etc. David Heath thought it possible that a new scheme would concentrate not simply on repairs but might offer small grants up to £50,000 which would help those areas not currently receiving grants such as monuments etc. HLF would not want an open-ended scheme but wanted to spread money differently; a meeting at the end of October should clarify their proposals. In the meantime David Heath suggested writing to the HLF Director of Operations, Stephen Johnson or Ms Judy Cligman, the Deputy Director of Policy, setting out the needs for bells. Richard Halsey commented that it was now urgent for HLF to put a scheme in place to take effect from next April.

2. VAT relief for listed places of worship - David Heath circulated copies of the tender documents which would provide the basis for administration of the scheme by the favoured tenderer; however. although the eligibility date of 1st April 2001 was still valid, final details of the scheme could yet change. The present proposals were not favourable to bells: eligibility was restricted to repairs to the fabric of protected buildings and did not extend to fixtures and fittings, nor to professional fees. Ian Oram pointed out that current VAT legislation treated the belfries as part of the fabric.

It was recalled that the Chancellor had originally announced the scheme during his 7th March Budget Statement: the continuing delay in settling details was causing parishes financial difficulties. Once a tenderer is appointed, DCMS were expected to introduce the scheme quickly; in any case, it was unlikely applications could be invited before the New Year.

3. Heritage Strategy Review - Richard Halsey said that the Government's response was still awaited. It had been drafted but was set aside for the General Election. New DCMS Ministers were reviewing the matter: their response would be published in a booklet now in preparation.

4. Radio Aerials in Churches - CCC were still working on the guidelines, there was no known target date for completion. The matter had been raised at a recent DAC conference at which concerns raised by CCCBR had been acknowledged.

5. Thermal expansion of steel beams in towers - Graham Pledger thought it unlikely that there would be any further progress: the engineer involved (Don Ascough) had semi-retired and proposals for further investigations on the clock tower at Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa had had to be postponed because of a lack of funds.

(Post Meeting Note: Sadly shortly after the meeting, we learnt of the sudden death of Don Ascough. This was on the 25th September after being admitted to hospital only two days earlier)

6. Conservation Statement - Graham Pledger said that, from a conservation viewpoint, the problem with most of the current applications to rehang bells was that they were "developer led", and did not identify historic fabric likely to be affected by the works at an early enough stage. Although it had been hoped that the descriptions in the new "Statements of Significance", (now required in the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2000), would go some way to addressing this, on the evidence so far this did not appear to be the case. Since the last meeting he had also been sent a copy of the CCCBR publication Tower changes because it had been suggested that this went some way to producing a conservation statement. In Graham Pledger's opinion, although this went some way, a new document was still required. Adrian Dempster would look at updating these guidelines. An updated article was needed on the rules for faculty applications with particular reference to the statements of need and significance.

7. Installation of ringers' galleries - Graham Pledger reported that applications were still being received which proposed the removal of historic fabric to gain a new access off the spiral stair on the grounds that all of the alternatives were unsafe.

8. East Bergholt - ringing had been suspended on account of Health & Safety issues. The tower captain Paul Ireland was hoping to restart ringing by Christmas and had launched an appeal to raise funds for the safety improvements: these included modifications to the headstocks and providing a walkway to access the tenor: it was understood that Taylors had strengthened the tenor pit with tie-rods.

9. Next meeting - it was agreed to meet at Savile Row on 6th March 2002.

The Ringing World, January 25, 2002, page 75