Political parties asked to support nation's historic church buildings ahead of General Election

The main political parties are being asked to commit to supporting the nation's thousands of historic churches and chapels ahead of the General Election. 

The National Churches Trust has released a Church Buildings Matter Manifesto setting out five key areas of support that it wants the parties to deliver over the next five years if they win the election. 

These include the establishment of a new urgent repair and maintenance grant scheme offering up to £10m in support a year to listed places of worship.

Another point in the manifesto asks that the next government keep church repairs VAT free to help reduce the often burdensome costs to be met by congregations.

It also calls for more work to be done to stamp out heritage crime and lead theft by making it illegal to buy or sell scrap metal for cash, and increasing the penalties for doing so. 

Elsewhere, the manifesto recommends a £10mn grant scheme to coincide with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee in 2022.  The scheme would help churches become community hubs by covering the cost of installing toilets or kitchen facilities, the NCT said. 

"The UK's 42,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses are renowned for their history, architecture and sheer variety, unmatched anywhere else in the world. However, their future is not guaranteed," the NCT said. 

"That's why the National Churches Trust is asking all the main political parties standing in the December 2019 General Election to support our five point Church Buildings Matters Manifesto."