Our response to Mission in Revision GS2222

10 Nov 2021

Mission in Revision: A review of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 (also known as GS2222) was published this summer. It invited responses to the Measure which has long been criticised as unwieldy and in need of reform and simplification.

Our response to the consultation is written in the firm belief that there is huge potential to evolve the role of The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) to further support the Church of England in managing historic church buildings into the future, with the support of their surrounding communities and deploying the skills and knowledge we have acquired over the last 50 years of activity.

The fate of the historic parish church building is, in our view, the most significant heritage challenge of the next decade and perhaps beyond. As has been stated in the Green Paper, the Church of England holds 45% of all Grade I listed buildings in England. The care and management of these buildings is an issue for society to tackle and depends on the collaboration of Church, State and Local Communities. The question will be, how does society value these buildings and how can we manage them into the future to ensure the generations that succeed us have access to the history, heritage and beauty that they contain? If the worship use fails, what will be kept and how will it be managed?

CCT agrees that there is an urgent need to review how we can all help church buildings that face closure. The delays involved in defining the future of these important buildings leads to further decay and a loss of value. There is the opportunity to take the best of the legislation and adapt and streamline it in the knowledge and experience of the last 50 years. CCT stands ready to provide support to keep historic church buildings open across the country and considers that there is a real role for the Trust in providing more community support and practical building management (beyond vesting) to the Church Commissioners.

There is also an opportunity to streamline the bureaucracy of managing the changing status of church buildings. At present the length and complexity of finding resolutions for church buildings, that are no longer needed for regular worship, leads to increasing capital repair costs, reducing the volume of buildings that the CCT can take or making buildings much less attractive to potential developers and users. Early engagement is the key to finding the best possible outcome and the current lengthy process means that vital local community support simply ebbs away.

Currently, church buildings are either open or closed and CCT supports the concept of a non-binary future for church buildings that will provide more options for suitable uses. This, if coupled with a means of funding a maintenance regime and the ability to undertake emergency repairs, should see buildings retain some community interest and ensure that capital repair costs can be kept as low as possible.

The CCT supports the overall objective of streamlining planning and advice, particularly around the involvement of the CBC (Church Buildings Council) reports and the SAC (Statutory Advisory Committee). It would be useful and more efficient to rationalise policy and authority in relation to advice over the future of historic church buildings.

The CCT believes that building local community support for historic church buildings is key and considers that there is a significant role for CCT in supporting the Church Commissioners and Dioceses to manage the challenges of historic church building care and community development. CCT has developed a strategy (2019-2024) which is aimed squarely at supporting communities to use and love their historic church buildings. Over the past three years, we have been developing an infrastructure to provide support to communities and with the right investment this support could be scaled up further.

Historic church buildings need people to visit, to use them and to donate to their upkeep. For church buildings in the CCT collection we have developed our expertise in historic building management, maintenance, community engagement and large-scale regeneration. Our strategy has been developed to establish how we might best support the Church of England to manage the future of their historic church buildings, taking into account the potential of more, highly listed, buildings closing. The CCT is dedicated to ensuring that historic church buildings remain relevant to the communities around them as well as wider society, whether that be through history, heritage, art, architecture, faith, community activity or tourism.

CCT has a deep interest in any proposed revision of the Mission and Pastoral Measure (2011) as this is the key piece of legislation that provides our purpose and function. The legislation is effectively the articles and memorandum of the charity.

Given that the 1968 Pastoral Measure first established CCT and provided the means for Church and Government investment, we ask that any changes to the Measure be carefully considered so we strengthen rather than weaken this long lasting and successful partnership. CCT provides a high return on the investment made by the Church of England and DCMS. Each financial year our statutory income is around £4m and this is usually doubled. In 2020/21 total income was over £11m. The CCT also shares its expertise to help places of worship outside our collection and is a centre of innovation, from specific church redevelopments to the creation of Champing™.