Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund: some legal issues

Last week we reported that in his Autumn Statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced a new Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund, under which grants between £10,000 and £100,000 would be available to listed places of worship of all faiths and denominations across the whole of the UK, “to support the maintenance of church roofs in 2015. This government-sponsored Fund is administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and was set up “to help make the UK’s listed places of worship weathertight, safe and open for use.”

Across the UK there are over 1,100 historic places of worship on national Buildings at Risk Registers, and the latest edition of English Heritage’s At Risk register indicates that  6% of listed places of worship are physically ‘at risk’, and of these 887 buildings, 806 are the responsibility of the Church of England.  The estimated cost of repairs to all listed places of worship in England has been estimated to be £925M over five years, of which congregations and the local communities can currently raise around half of this total, “so additional investment is needed to secure the significant public benefits of historic places of worship for future generations

The bodies involved – ChurchCare, English Heritage and the NHMF – have been quick off the mark with detailed guidance and assistance, which is essential given the prescriptive and time-limited nature of the scheme. This post considers some of the legal issues raised by the scheme, and identifies its more important features.

Funding

This fund will be administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which has the legal authority to distribute grant-in-aid, i.e. public money. The money for the Roof Repair Fund is from the Treasury and is allocated for the tax year 2014-15 with negligible expenditure expected in 2015-16[1].

Grants are available for between £10,000 and £100,000, the upper limit being set to maximize the number of places that might benefit: evidence shows that modest repairs undertaken quickly will save large amounts of money in the medium to longer term. It is estimated the fund has the potential to make around 375 places of worship watertight.

For larger urgent repair projects where a grant in excess of £100,000 is sought, the National Heritage Memorial Fund recommends contacting the local Heritage Lottery Fund, (HLF)[2], on the eligibility to apply to one of its grant programmes.

Timeline and terms of grant

The time-dependent events associated with the Fund are:

  • 3 December 2014: Scheme opens
  • 30 January 2015: applications to be submitted by 12:00 noon on 30 January.
  • 31 March 2015: applicants to be notified on outcome of grant submission.
  • Project to be completed within two years.
  • Terms of the grant: from the start of the project until 10 years after project completion.
  • 50% of the grant is paid up-front, and a further 40% when this first instalment has been spent; the final 10% is paid on completion of the project and the final completion report sent, including a 10-year Management and Maintenance Plan.

Although there were 58 calendar days between the announcement of the Fund and the deadline for submissions, this equates to 39 working days (38 in Scotland), and whilst the preliminary work by ChurchCare and others has reduced the burden on PCCs, this initial time-slot is narrow in view of the detailed information that must be supplied before the cut-off date[3]. Of these, the cash flow and cost spreadsheet are critical, and whilst the Application Form does not appear to require supportive material in this area, the award of a grant is dependent upon evidence of competitive tendering[4], and the EU Procurement Regulations where necessary.

PCCs with access to professional project management skills will find this task less onerous than those that do not:

“[the] NHMF expects to fund well-planned projects, led by a suitably qualified professional adviser (or team), where repair needs are properly identified and repair proposals are appropriately specified and realistically costed … NHMF encourages good practice in professional adviser appointments which, in many areas, is best achieved through the recognised accreditation schemes”.

For Church of England churches, ChuchCare has produced guidance on preparing supporting letters and templates for letters from the Diocesan Advisory Committee and the inspecting architect/surveyor indicating their respective awareness and support of the proposed repairs.

Eligibility criteria

These are summarized on the Listed Places of Worship, (LPOW), website and require:

  • the place of worship to be listed;
  • the place of worship to be used solely or mainly as a place of worship;
  • the applicant organisation to be responsible for maintaining the place of worship;
  • the project for the repairs to be for the roof and/or rainwater disposal systems; and
  • the repair work to have been identified in a recent professional report as being necessary within the next five years.

Further details are given in the Application Guidance, which clarifies, inter alia, that:

  • the building must be currently used for worship at least six times a year, and priority will be given to support urgent repairs to roofs and rainwater disposal systems that are needed within the next five years that have been clearly identified and defined in a condition survey, such as (but not exclusively) a Quinquennial Inspection.
  • a project is defined as: work or activity that is defined at the outset; has not yet started; will take no more than two years to complete; and for which the repair work will be carried out in a single contract.
  • the project must involve: like-for-like repairs, retaining as much of the original material as possible and only replacing original material where it has reached the end of its useful life and/or where it cannot reasonably be economically repaired.

The scheme excludes projects that involve works to:

  • unlisted places of worship;
  • privately-owned places of worship;
  • chapels in schools, hospitals or other institutions;
  • nunneries or monasteries that are not open to the public;
  • buildings used by a minister of religion totally or mainly as their home;
  • work to church halls or other premises used by the place of worship;
  • Anglican or Roman Catholic Cathedrals in England; and
  • faith buildings that are no longer used for worship, unless vested in or owned by: The Historic Chapels Trust; Friends of Friendless Churches; Scottish Redundant Churches Trust; Churches Conservation Trust; Welsh Religious Buildings Trust; Norfolk Churches Trust; or other religious or charitable groups caring for redundant places of worship.

(In the last case, these groups need to demonstrate that their principal or primary purpose is to conserve, repair and maintain redundant listed places of worship which are not in private ownership.)

Also excluded are organizations that are currently in receipt of a repair grant from Cadw, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Heritage Lottery Fund and or any other Lottery distributor, where the project for which grant-aid was previously provided has not yet been completed. However, an organization might still be eligible for a grant from this fund if any grant-aided work has been finished and the final payment of the grant has been made.

Legislative Issues

Chancel Repair Liability

A number of Church of England or Church in Wales buildings are subject to Chancel Repair Liability (CLR), under which some landowners may be responsible for work to the chancel. The NHMF states that when it assesses the need for a grant it will look at the value for money the application offers and the organization’s financial needs in developing plans for the long-term sustainable use of the building. Importantly, it states:

we will also be realistic about your ability to fundraise, and therefore we will not encourage you to pursue CRL as partnership funding on occasions where it is evidently unreasonable for you to do so”.

Faculty Jurisdiction

In the case of churches belonging to the Church of England, at the application stage, it is necessary for the DAC to be aware and supportive of the proposed work, a consequence of which will be a statement in the form of a letter covering the issues in the template provided by ChurchCare: confirmation of their necessity; assurance of adhering to “best conservation practice” before issuing a notification of advice, when the faculty application is submitted in due course; early consideration by DAC of successful application.  In anticipation of the requirements of the faculty application, the template includes the caveat: “if the proposals involve anything other than like-for-like repair, some further discussion may be necessary”.

If a grant is awarded, prior to commencing any work NHMF’s written permission ins required and this requires the organization to provide further information including “proof of any necessary statutory or ecclesiastical permissions (e.g. faculty or listed building consent) necessary for the repair works.

Bats

The Application Guidance makes particular reference to the possible presence of bats and the need to research the site and undertake/commission specialist ecological surveys.  Although it notes that “[a]ll species of bat and their breeding sites or resting places (roosts) are protected by law”, a fuller explanation of the legal requirements is provided by Natural England/Defra and the English Heritage site includes information on their management.

Value Added Tax

The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (LPWG) is a source of grants for the actual amount of VAT spent on eligible repairs, maintenance and approved alterations to listed places of worship, including professional fees directly relating to these works. The organization is expected to make a claim under this scheme, and it is required to enter the amount it expects to reclaim from the LPW grant scheme as partnership funding on its application form. It should also be remembered that authorisation is required before works under the LPWG Scheme can begin: you cannot normally apply for a VAT refund under the Scheme retrospectively.

_______________________

[1] Para 2.252; Table 2.1(28): -£15M, 2014-15; negligible, 2015-16.

[2] The NHMF is the parent body of HLF, whose role is to distribute Lottery, not Treasury funds.

[3] Constitution; accounts; condition survey; letter from lead professional advisor; letter from the person with overall responsibility for place of worship; briefs for consultants; cost spreadsheet; images of place of worship; location plan; breakdown of works; cash flow forecast; letter of support; proof of ownership.

[4] i.e. For all goods, for work and services worth £10,000 or more (excluding VAT), at least three competitive tenders or quotes; For all goods, works and services worth more than £50,000 (excluding VAT), proof of competitive tendering procedures, i.e. a report on the tenders you have received, together with the decision on which to accept, and full reasons if the lowest tender is not selected.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund: some legal issues" in Law & Religion UK, 10 December 2014, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2014/12/10/listed-places-of-worship-roof-repair-fund-some-legal-issues/

4 thoughts on “Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund: some legal issues

  1. Pingback: Religion and Law round-up – 14th December | Law & Religion UK

  2. Although fulfilling the criteria for this award, (we are a listed Welsh medieval church grade 2* requiring over £10,000 for the project), we have been unable to complete the application form in the extremely short time allowed (approx six weeks taking into account the total shut down of most organizations over the Christmas period)
    We feel that this puts us, an underfunded church with elderly PCC members, at an extreme disadvantage.

  3. Pingback: Religion and law round-up – 8th March | Law & Religion UK

  4. Pingback: £24 million church roof fund now open | Law & Religion UK

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