Cathedrals to receive £20m for urgent repairs

PA

A new £20m fund has been announced in the Chancellor's Budget today to help cathedrals foot the cost of urgent repairs.

Although cathedrals form a unique and treasured part of England's architectural heritage, they are burdened with huge running costs, including expensive conservation and repair, that cannot be met fully by entry fees and local supporter groups.

The new fund announced in the Budget will be used for repairs to both Church of England and Roman Catholic cathedrals.

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, said the Chancellor had scored a "double first" with the fund.

"There will be widespread support for the Government making a direct contribution to the glories of English cathedrals, places which millions of us enjoy each year," he said.

"In addition I am very pleased in that the money is to be spent on Roman Catholic as well as Anglican cathedrals."

The Church of England's 42 cathedrals welcome around 11 million visitors through their doors each year, and contribute an estimated £350m to the economy. They are kept open to the public by a staff of 6,000 as well as over 15,000 volunteers.

However, the Church of England is expecting its cathedrals will run-up an £87m shortfall in funding for repairs in the next five years.

Sir Tony Baldry MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner said he was delighted by the announcement.

"Cathedrals are a vital part of our cities and are of inestimable worth to the country in terms of their cultural capital. The money this grant provides will go a long way to continue to preserve and protect these living monuments to our Christian heritage," he said.

One of the cathedrals that will be eligible to apply for a grant is York Minster. The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, Dean of York and Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, said the fresh injection of funds was "about much more than just beautiful buildings".

"Whether great or small cathedrals are part of the lifeblood of their cities. From back-to-work schemes at Manchester, to concerts at Liverpool, to apprentices and training opportunities at Canterbury and York, they are highly important sources of on-going regeneration," she said.

"They also bring in millions of visitors and millions of pounds a year, right across England. They are a source of community spirit and local pride. They are part of the identity of England."

Janet Gough, Director of Cathedral and Church Buildings for the Church of England noted that many cathedrals would appreciate the cash boost as they prepare special events to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

"The Church of England's has 12,500 listed cathedrals and church buildings which comprise unparalleled glories and a history of architecture," she said.

"They tell stories of kings, battles and wars, of brave men and women and of everyday life. One hundred years on from the beginnings of World War One, giving cathedrals the means to repair their buildings and provide the best possible setting for national and local acts of remembrance is particularly poignant.

"We are delighted that this announcement now makes it possible for every cathedral to apply to receive support for repairs to their buildings, which will help enable their continued worship and local ministry."

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