BACKGROUND TO THE SUSTAINABILITY REVIEW
In September 2015 the Church of England published a major report on the future of its church building, which was welcomed by the HRBA. Historic England, commented on the report, with a letter suggesting ‘a wider discussion’ and also made detailed comments. The Heritage Lottery Fund also commented.
In his 2016 budget the Chancellor announced a Task Force to carry out an ‘English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review’. The Terms of Reference were published in early April. The government has now (28 October 2016) made public the names of the Panel conducting the Review – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/english-churches-and-cathedrals-sustainability-review
The Task Force will report to both the Secretary of State for Culture and the Chancellor in April 2017.
DEVELOPMENTS DURING THE COURSE OF THE REVIEW
In June 2016 HRBA wrote to the Chairman of the Task Force raising the issue of the right, or otherwise, of Parish Councils to give financial support to church buildings.
In December 2016 and January 2017 a Consultation was carried out, which is now closed.
Note about about places of worship other than those owned by the Church of England
We asked DCMS whether in their Consultation they wanted to have responses about non-Church of England places of worship. They replied <<The Review is focusing on CofE churches and cathedals and therefore the survey is primarily concerned with CofE places of worship.>> The use of the word “primarily” presumably leaves the door open for other denominations and faith groups to respond.
We also pointed out to DCMS that the blurb to the Consultation says that “any recommendations made [by the Review] could also be relevant to other places of worship”. We asked <<Is the Panel intending to sense check its emerging recommendations with other faith groups, to make sure that the recommendations do not inadvertently have a negative impact on places of worship cared for by non-CofE congregations? Will this be done before the recommendations are published?>> They replied to the effect that the point is still under consideration, and that they will come back to us on this.
In January 2017 the Chair of the Historic England Places of Worship Forum (an independent body which does not speak for Historic England) wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport regarding the need to consider the possible impact of the Task Force’s recommendations on religious buildings other than those of the CofE.