Britain at risk of losing one fifth of its churches

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London, May 11 : A new research has shown that Britain will lose up to a fifth of its churches in the space of a generation if an appropriate action is not taken to stop the decline.

According to the study, the number of churches is estimated to reduce from 48,500 now to only 39,200 in 2030.

Church leaders have cautioned that the crisis threatens to devastate parishes, depriving local communities of important focal points.

Conservationists said Britain was at the risk of losing a large slice of its built heritage, reports BBC.

The threat of decline is clear from the fact that two churches are being closed down every week.

At least 1 billion pounds is needed to repair all listed places of worship over the next five years.

Yet the Government spends just 25 million pounds a year on repairs - far less than the 200 million pounds needed.

Churches claim that the income for maintenance further reduces when local authorities discriminate against church-based community projects.

Planned EU changes to VAT rules for repairs could see churches having to find another 10 million pounds every year.

However, the decline is not inevitable. Increases in government grants to repair churches and to back their community work, and minor changes to planning law, could head off the crisis.

Out of the country's 14,500 listed places of worship, around 13,000 are Church of England premises, yet the Church currently receives only around 40 million pounds in repair grants - half government money from English Heritage, half from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Worshippers provide a further 70 million pounds toward maintenance of their buildings, leaving a 75 million pounds shortfall.

Churches warn that if the gap isn't filled soon, large numbers of buildings will fall into disrepair.

According to leading church figures, local authorities discriminate against appeals from churches for money for community projects, cutting off a revenue stream that could indirectly help pay for the maintenance.

Churchmen said that the Christian churches face 'a barrier of prejudice' when trying to secure money from local authorities.

Crispin Truman, the chief executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, said: "Churches need to be adapted so that they are relevant to their communities. It must be done sensitively, but there must be small sacrifices if we are to save our heritage for the future.

"They can be an agent for social change and a place for people to meet. It is crucial that we keep them and help prevent society from fracturing even further," Truman added.

ANI

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