Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
Meeting with English Heritage

Notes of a meeting held at 23, Savile Row, London, W1 on Thursday, 16th March 2006

English Heritage - Richard Halsey, Graham Pledger.

CCCBR - Derek Sibson, Tony Smith, Alan Frost, Ian Oram.

Apology received from David Heath.

1. Matters Arising from previous meeting notes:

(a) Survey recording techniques: Graham Pledger produced a draft of an article "Bellframe Recording by Reflectorless Electronic Distance Measurement", some of which had been presented at the Lincoln Roadshow. The survey team had widened its remit to show the frame in the context of the church. Attention was drawn to the last page explaining that the cost of developing a model would be unaffordable at present. Alan Frost acknowledged that there could be special cases which might justify the cost, especially if other parts of the building could be included; the model could be used as engineering drawings. Richard Halsey recognised a benefit where a tower was to be stripped out and a new frame installed: recording by hand would take far too long, but with such use of up-to-date techniques much more could be achieved. Graham Pledger agreed to review his article in the light of these comments, prior to submission for publication. In the meantime Ian Oram would discuss with the Editor of The Ringing World whether he anticipated any difficulty in reproducing the illustrations.

(b) Criteria for listing bells: Alan Frost reported that several meetings had been held with the CCC in an amicable atmosphere. It had been agreed that future listings should include a reason for being listed, such as the bell's inscription, a rare founder, etc; although it was acknowledged that any comment on tonal quality was bound to be subjective. There was a wish to move away from the word "Listed" to, for example, bells "identified as being historically important". It was hoped that only minor changes of wording would be needed to the Code of Practice. The trial investigation of two dioceses showed that the new proposals would have little effect: thus the major concerns expressed when the subject was first raised now seem to be largely unfounded. The database of listings was available to all; if a bell was missing, it was possible that it had been recast or transferred to another parish; as the database was developed, the reasons for "listing" - currently blank in most cases - would gradually be added. Richard Halsey commented that similarly detailed work on bellframes had not been done; since the frame was considered to be part of the fabric of the building, other considerations applied; however, there were instances where the frame could be considered in its own right, such as where an old frame was incorporated into a new or rebuilt church.

(c) Great Malvern: Graham Pledger had attended a meeting three days previously: a price for a new frame had been received: adjustments to this were made, to make a valid comparison with the repair option. The contractor providing the most favourable quotation for the repair option was to check the VAT position; it seemed likely that this option would only be some 10% dearer than a new frame, in which case EH favoured pursuing that. The parish would have to make a decision which quotation to accept and then submit proposals to the Chancellor.

(d) Surveys of existing bellframes: Graham Pledger had prepared a model specification based on Chris Pickford's 1993 report. EH architects and surveyors had checked the paper, which now awaited EH inspectors' comments. Assuming Chris Pickford was content with the final version, it would be submitted via Chris Povey for publication in The Ringing World; it would be useful if it could be published in conjunction with the bellframe recording article. It should be stressed that this level of recording was not necessary in all cases, but regard should be had to the historical merit of the frame.

2. EH reorganisation: Richard Halsey confirmed the move to Bunhill Row, EC1 on 24th June; subsequently the London headquarters of EH would be established at Waterhouse Square. It was likely that some professional staff would remain in London for the next two years, while others may be dispersed to Swindon and Birmingham. There would be little change to regional offices. Little information was available on the effect of the reduction in staff on the processing of faculty applications; clearly any increase in the number of applications would be aggravated by staff losses, which may mean more cases will be handled by Diocesan Bell Advisers. In the meantime Graham Pledger was pleased to report that he had been consulted on more cases recently.

3. Ecclesiastical Exemption: Richard Halsey said that there were no further developments. The pilot scheme in the Taunton area of the Bath & Wells Diocese and another in Lincolnshire were identifying methods of working and drawing up Statements of Significance, to lead to heritage protection agreements (HPA). The Department for Culture, Media and Sport was due to produce a further White Paper in May, although indications were that this may be delayed until September; this would be followed by a consultation period and then parliamentary time had to be found to present a Bill. The EPA would give consent to clearly defined work and would designate heritage assets; outline consent would be given for future developments.

4. Cases of difficulty: none had been notified.

5. Other business:

(a) Legislative requirements: Alan Frost referred to two matters raised by Chris Povey, following a meeting with the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group. Application of The Working at Height Regulations in a belfry, often with no floor beneath the bells, the extra risk with two-tier frames, could be unreasonably restrictive; Richard Halsey suggested a risk assessment was needed to determine a practical solution: no-one should work on their own, there should be adequate lighting, guard-rails where possible, etc. The Fire Regulations due out in October posed other problems: again a practical approach was needed; Alan Frost thought that a fire-protected exit should be sufficient. Richard Halsey mentioned that David Heath's department looked at the practical aspects of possible legislative changes, as they might affect historic buildings, and he would seek his comments.

(b) "Inspired!": Richard Halsey referred to this campaign, to be launched in May, to draw attention to the problems faced by listed places of worship: there were more churches than the denominations could support; there were too many buildings, many with dwindling congregations which could not face the costs of repairs; numbers of clergy were falling. Redundant churches posed their own problems: there was a limit to the number the Churches Conservation Trust could care for; how much is the nation prepared to pay to look after "dead" churches; could such buildings be put to other uses?

6. Next meeting - it was agreed to meet at a location to he advised on 12th October 2006 at 4pm.

(now confirmed as Bunhill Row).

The Ringing World, August 18, 2006, page 783