Central Council of Church Bell Ringers - Meeting with English Heritage

Notes of a meeting held at 23, Savile Row, London, W1 on Tuesday, 1st October 2002

English Heritage - Richard Halsey, Graham Pledger, David Heath

CCCBR - Michael Henshaw, Derek Sibson, Chris Povey, Ian Oram

1. Repair Grants for Places of Worship - As far as he was aware, Richard Halsey said no applications under this new EH/HLF scheme for church repairs included work to bells or a bellframe. Richard Halsey said that details of the revised HLF "Your Heritage" scheme were expected to be published in the next few weeks. Any applications for work other than church fabric repairs would now be dealt with under this HLF programme. Ian Oram would contact Judy Cligman, now Director of Policy and Research at the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), for details of how the scheme might apply to bells and bellframes.

David Heath commented that applications under Your Heritage should be fully detailed; he mentioned that regional committees of English Heritage (EH) were looking particularly at the community benefit of applications, especially if there was no conservation case involved.

Richard Halsey noted that the HLF could be expected to continue its present operations until 2007 when the distribution of Lottery money will again be reviewed.

2. Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme - Richard Halsey reported that although some 8,000 claims had been submitted, only 1,500 had been successful (amounting to around £2 million); many applications were not presented correctly, invoices were missing, etc. This scheme was likely to continue beyond April 2003.

Ian Oram had secured confirmation from the Scheme office that work to bellframes was eligible - he would provide Graham Pledger with a copy for his file.

Richard Halsey said the Scheme eligibility might be widened - there was pressure to include professional fees. David Heath expected the Scheme to continue as there was no European alternative; he thought the Government would be reluctant to change the VAT structure concerning fees, but relief for fees on repair work was a possibility.

3. Radio Aerials in Churches - Richard Halsey spoke of the recent Council for the Care of Churches (CCC) Conference in Bradford, where the approved contractor, Quintel, had given a presentation; it was clear that Quintel was aware of the concerns about access, keys, etc. Regional managers were being appointed to conduct local negotiations; DACs are being encouraged to contact these managers.

The status of the Parish Project Handbook was unclear: Ian Oram would follow up with CCC.

Chris Povey referred to a specific case in the Birmingham area where all the equipment was stored outside the tower, thus there was no problem with access. Richard Halsey responded that there was not strong support for "little boxes in churchyards": there were potential difficulties with drainage, graves, vandalism, etc.

4. Conservation Statement - Alan Frost had sent his proposed alterations to "Tower Changes"; the intended flow-chart of the faculty application procedure would follow. Graham Pledger would e-mail EH comments to Alan for incorporation in the final draft.

5. Incomplete specifications - Graham Pledger had prepared a draft article for The Ringing World; CCCBR was asked for any comments before the article was submitted for publication. Graham Pledger was thanked for his work.

6. Cases of difficulty:

(a) St Osyth, Essex - Graham Pledger explained that there is an ancient frame sitting on very ancient timbers: this frame is very weak, it slides and distorts; there is scarcely any space for a new frame beneath: there are other structural problems. The Archdeacon has said that repair of the existing frame is the preferred option. EH is presently waiting on the consultant carrying out a structural survey. The information reaching Chris Povey implied that the tower captain thought that a new metal frame was possible; he had already involved Adrian Semken (a member of the Towers & Belfries Committee) who had agreed to offer help by visiting.

(b) West Wickham, Cambridgeshire - This case had been raised, as the new EH Regional Architects seemed to be unaware of the Code of Practice. The bellhanger had claimed that this advice, which was contrary to the Code, had caused unnecessary delay to faculty approval. Information had not previously been passed through Graham Pledger but he was now in touch with the member of staff involved.

(c) Wingham, Kent - The DAC Bells Adviser had queried EH advice not to remove the cracked canons on the second bell, since the canons had already been removed from five of the eight bells many years ago (the whole ring is Listed for preservation). Following discussion with the previous Adviser, Graham Pledger had confirmed his advice and the parish had now instructed the bellhanger to rehang the bell with a canon-retaining headstock.

7. Roadshow - Michael Henshaw was pleased to invite representatives of EH to attend the Roadshow as it wou1d provide an excellent opportunity to promote the work of EH to a very wide group of ringers (a letter of invitation had been sent prior to the meeting). The invitation received a favourable response; Graham Pledger noted that display stands were held for such occasions but he would need to know the space available.

The invitation had suggested presentation of a seminar on the preparation of faculty applications - it was agreed this would be worthwhile, Ian Oram will arrange contact with the event organisers.

Richard Halsey asked whether HLF should be included; if so, the arrangements could be coordinated via Graham Pledger.

8. Any other business:

(a) Conservation Seminar - Chris Povey asked whether EH would be interested in contributing to such a seminar, similar to that held recently at Brailes on Tower Movement. Richard Halsey said there was now a greater emphasis within EH for dissemination of information and therefore such events would be supported where possible. He explained that such an event was not an appropriate forum for discussion of the detailed reasons behind EH advice in specific cases. Graham Pledger noted that it would be necessary to call on other EH staff due to pressure on his own time.

(b) Changes in EH - Richard Halsey spoke of the appointment of a new Chief Executive in April, who was keen for EH to become more pro-active. Five departments had been created; the new Director was keen for staff to spend less time on case work and get out more: CCCBR's invitation to the Roadshow was therefore well timed! There was to be a review of grants - could more help be given?

9. Next meeting - it was agreed to meet at Savile Row on 20th March 2003 at 4 p.m.

These notes were sent to the English Heritage representatives on 6th November; they apologise for the delay in confirming their agreement.

The Ringing World, January 31, 2003, pages 99 and 116