Recognising the social and historical value of our places of worship
I'm pleased that the Government has announced an extension of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme for another year up to March 2022. This is an important scheme that supports and recognises the social and historical value of places of worship.
Over the past 20 years the scheme has supported more than 13,000 places of worship of all faiths across the UK with grants to cover VAT on repairs to the fabric of their buildings. It is a lifeline for organisations that are often reliant on grants and donations to fund their activities and the upkeep of their buildings. Those benefitting recently include places of worship in the Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency, such as the historic Church of St Mary, Ecclesfield which was completed in around 1500.
The scheme gives grants that cover the VAT incurred in making repairs to listed buildings that are used as places of worship, covering repairs to the fabric of the building, along with associated professional fees, plus repairs to turret clocks, pews, bells and pipe organs.
The pandemic has highlighted the role of churches and places of worship in supporting our local communities - from organising deliveries of food and medicine to those who were shielding, to offering companionship to those feeling isolated and alone - religious groups have offered a beacon of hope to many.
In many cases religious organisations occupy buildings that have a special heritage value in their communities, and which have been inherited with particularly onerous upkeep and maintenance costs. The public benefit that is derived from the proper care of these buildings means that it is only right for the Government to contribute to their continued safety and preservation.
The Listed Places of Worship Grant scheme was initially extended to March 2021 following the 2020 Spending Review, and there had been some uncertainty as to whether it would be able to continue beyond then. Following conversations with colleagues at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Second Church Estates Commissioner, it is great news that the additional funding has been approved and the scheme will therefore continue to operate on the same terms as last year.
More information can be found on the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme website.