CCCBR Meeting with English Heritage

Notes of a meeting held at 23, Savile Row, London, W1 on Wednesday, 6th March 2002

English Heritage - Richard Halsey, Graham Pledger, David Heath

CCCBR - John Anderson, Michael Henshaw, Alan Frost, Ian Oram

1. The Joint Churches Grants Scheme

John Anderson reported on a meeting on 12th February with Judy Cligman, Deputy Director of Policy at the Heritage Lottery Fund. He had emphasised that ringing in all its aspects was part of our heritage and then identified areas which HLF might want to support: bells, frames and fabric; education, training and recruitment; and recording of frames.

Judy Cligman had explained the plan for future funding; at this point David Heath handed over copies of a letter being sent to all Archdeacons concerning the proposed Repair Grants Scheme for 2002 - 2005, which specifically excluded bells. John Anderson noted that bells were to be dealt with under the separate scheme "Your Heritage"; HLF were to take advice from CCC on the criteria for this: Ian Oram was meeting CCC representatives the following week to explore how CCCBR could assist.

Judy Cligman was interested in our work on the National Bells Register. Richard Halsey commented that the Essex bellframe survey, for which Judy had been the overall controller, had shown how much such work costed and the problems encountered. Alan Frost asked where the Bells Register stood in relation to "Dove" and the County collections - some Counties had recently been updated, e.g. Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire. David Heath felt that work on records was an area worth pursuing with HLF; while some of the work would be on a voluntary basis, professionals may also be involved and HLF might fund that aspect. John Anderson noted that HLF support was also likely if young people could he involved in the work. Richard Halsey pointed out that if a national recording project was contemplated incurring costs in excess of £50,000, a mainstream application would be necessary. He also drew attention to "Awards for All" which gave grants up to £4,000 for local initiatives: these were suitable for very small schemes in the local community where the bulk of the work was voluntary.

John Anderson had spoken of the work of Ringing Centres and the training facilities they provided; this was another area that Judy Cligman thought had potential; she suggested contacting HLF's Education Policy Adviser.

Altogether the meeting had been most useful; John Anderson thanked David Heath for suggesting the contact with HLF. Copies of the notes of the meeting would be provided, as soon as they were agreed with Judy Cligman.

2. VAT Relief - Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme

Richard Halsey reported that the Scheme in operation was suffering administrative problems - original invoices not being available, etc. The appointed contractors were having difficulty making the scheme definitions work; if they thought an application was ineligible, the matter was referred to DCMS and thence to EH; it had been hoped that few queries would arise, but many (some quite ludicrous) were taking up much staff time.

David Heath commented that although the 2-year contract was due to run out in April 2003, nothing will be ready then to replace it; the contract would possibly continue for at least another year. With the European Community thinking about enlargement, it was desirable that legislation became simpler and therefore special arrangements for member countries less likely; since the UK had identified problems with VAT on historic buildings and devised a way of giving relief, it seemed probable that the Grant Scheme would continue. David Heath thought that with the change in timescale there would be capacity in the scheme for some extensions. The Government had given an open-ended commitment even with marginal cases; David Heath said that even if an applicant was unsure whether a case was worth pursuing, he should still submit an application as EH was keen for the Scheme to be seen to be operating. Richard Halsey commented that the Government would be giving careful consideration to future VAT liabilities of work; it had made proposals for a 5% rate; although the EEC was committed to reviewing the position in 2003, it was likely to be many months later before any change became effective. David Heath confirmed that Government seemed to be committed to a 5% rate for Places of Worship and was even considering widening the scope for this rate. Any further change in VAT might be fiscally neutral, due to the effect of the black economy, a new rate on developments etc.

3. Heritage Strategy Review

Richard Halsey presented "A Force for Our Future" - a Government document jointly sponsored by DCMS and DTLR. There was scarcely anything about churches; however there will be a review of the present Ecclesiastical Exemption.

Aspects being stressed were Education: the Government was looking for a sound knowledge base from which to develop policies, using heritage as a learning resource, involving the public; and Access: free admission to museums, free access for children to heritage sites. People must learn from our historic environment: it is an economic asset, with many historic attractions, all other aspects of tourism, regeneration of the local economy after Foot & Mouth, etc. It was not clear what funding would be made available.

4. Radio Aerials in Churches

Ian Oram had spoken with Stephen Bowler the previous Monday: it was hoped to have the national agreement in place by Easter. John Anderson stressed the need for consultation over any proposed installation, with particular care over access for the ringers (and others) and no hazards. Michael Henshaw was concerned that cables were being installed with no fail-safe system: if they are damaged, the risk of radiation increases; consultation at a technical level was not happening.

5. Conservation Statement

Alan Frost wrote "Tower Changes", a CCCBR publication, some years ago. Faculty procedures had changed, especially the requirement for Statements of Significance and Need; the booklet was in the process of being updated and it was intended to include a flow-chart of the faculty application procedure. Graham Pledger had also prepared a first draft of a similar paper. Richard Halsey felt that the Statement should say something about the important historical and architectural points of a church building; if the bells were historic, then reference to them should be made. Alan Frost welcomed comments on "Tower Changes" and suggested it would be more constructive if one document could be produced, with the agreement of all interested parties; Alan Frost and Graham Pledger agreed to discuss the matter.

6. Installation of ringers' galleries

Graham Pledger reported that he continued to have difficult cases to resolve, particularly where a gallery is installed at a level where there was no previous access from a spiral stairway. He cited a case where the parish were keen to provide kitchen facilities at ground level; if a gallery is installed, consideration had to be given to how to gain safe access through a hole in the gallery floor - the angle of the stairway, the size of any landing; a hinged guardrail was being proposed, to prevent anyone falling through the trap opening. A case had to be made if the only solution appeared to be cutting a new doorway through the stair fabric. Richard Halsey observed that it is often the case that insufficient thought had been given to the use of the rest of the space in the church. John Anderson commented that no recent cases of problems with galleries had been raised with the CCCBR.

7. East Bergholt

Work was complete; the District Council had authorised the recommencement of ringing on 8th December last.

8. Incomplete Specifications at Faculty Application Stage

Graham Pledger said that specifications for work on bell installations were frequently inadequate. He had 10 cases since Christmas, none had a complete Specification; one criticism was that the Statement of Need had not been provided; another was that the drawings provided did not show the existing fabric clearly enough, to determine the impact of the proposals. In this respect Michael Henshaw commented that smaller contractors may be reluctant to incur costs on purely speculative estimates. Richard Halsey commented that, while it would be difficult to devise a checklist that covered everything, incomplete information was a common cause of delay in applications. In some cases it was clear that parishes were simply "kite-flying" and therefore they had deliberately not incurred costs in preparing better applications. The first stage of the new two-stage HLF grant process would establish the serious applicants and it might be appropriate to give a small grant to them to carry out preparatory work; Alan Frost was familiar with the Enabling Contract concept, which might include opening-up work. John Anderson invited Graham Pledger to write to The Ringing World, setting out the minimum standards required. Alan Frost had tried in the past to get the bellhangers to use standard specifications but without success.

9. Next meeting

It was agreed to meet at Savile Row on 1st October 2002 at 4 p.m.

10. Thanks

As this was his last meeting, John Anderson thanked the EH team for all that had been achieved during his six years in office.

The Ringing World, July 12, 2002, page 706