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HLF commitment to funding paces of worship; update from the Church Buildings Council.

The Church Buildings Council has made it clear that it considers the abrupt closure of GPOW, particularly without consultation or the carrying out of an Impact Assessment, was a mistake. We continue to regret the decision. However, HLF have reassured us in writing that the amount of their funds spent on places of worship, as a percentage of their total budget, will remain at levels equivalent to 2016. This assurance has been provided by the Chairman and Board of Trustees and runs until March 2019, when their new strategic framework period begins. This concrete assurance offers a clear demonstration that HLF does not intend to stop contributing to the care and development of our churches, and is the result of robust and effective negotiations between the HLF and the Church Buildings Council.

Officers of the Church Buildings Council are working with staff at the HLF to put in place evaluation of the impact of the changes on places of worship. We anticipate this will include measuring the number of projects funded, to see how results equate to GPOW, and calculating the percentage of grant funds spent on capital building works, which remains one of our primary concerns.

The HLF has produced new guidance for churches considering applications, available on their website. The Church Buildings Council will be producing practical notes on www.churchcare.co.uk that give churches applying to the Heritage Grants scheme clear ideas of how to demonstrate that their repairs-based project will meet HLF outcomes under their general schemes.

The HLF will begin consultation this Autumn on its next strategic framework. This is an opportunity for all churches, cathedrals and dioceses to contribute their ideas on how the HLF should disperse Lottery players’ money from 2019 onwards. We believe this is a crucial chance to reflect on the successes of HLF funding for places of worship, and to make the case for continued high levels of investment. We intend to make our submission public so that churches, cathedrals and dioceses can understand our position, and our hopes for the next strategic period in HLF’s management.

The Church Buildings Council is actively working with partners from other faiths and denominations on demonstrating the particular needs of places of worship, and the opportunities they offer to the nation. This work ties in to the ongoing independent review of cathedral and church building sustainability commissioned by Treasury and DCMS in 2016; we are in a strong position to work with these Government Departments when the review presents its report later this year.

Becky Clark, Director of Churches and Cathedrals and Secretary of the Church Buildings Council

10 September 2017