The PCC and Churchwardens are responsible for keeping the church building in good order and safe for all users. Most importantly, that means keeping it wind- and watertight, as even small faults with gutters, downpipes and blocked drains, slipped slates and broken windows, can lead over time to large repair bills. Regular inspections of these areas are important – don’t leave it to the Quinquennial inspector to do this. Any health and safety issues should also be dealt with promptly. Your latest Quinquennial report should be used as a working document to help the PCC prioritise other expenditure over a five-year period.
Metal Theft and other emergencies
In the last few years, there has been a steep rise in churches in the Leeds Diocese targeted for lead and metal theft. This is leaving PCCs with huge repair bills for replacing lead and other metals, and for roof and masonry damage caused by thieves attempting to climb onto the roof. We are urging all churches with lead flashings, rainwater goods and roofing material to be extra vigilant. Here are some ways you can help prevent your church being targeted:
- Ensure that all lead is painted with Smartwater and that signs warning of the use of Smartwater are clearly displayed;
- If your church has a lot of lead on the roof, fit a roof alarm and/or CCTV cameras. Ecclesiastical Insurance has guidance on this and does not provide full cover for metal theft in high risk churches unless a roof alarm is fitted. Roof alarms can be fitted under List B with permission from your Archdeacon and All Churches Trust offer grants for roof alarms. CCTV is more expensive and usually needs a full faculty.
- Keep your noticeboard attractive and up to date. Thieves are less likely to target churches which look to be busy and thriving. A tired, outdated noticeboard sends out a signal that there's not a lot of activity at the church, even if that isn't the case;
- Keep in regular contact with your neighbours and foster good relationships with them. They can be your eyes and ears on the ground and let you know if anyone suspicious is seen around the church building. Let your neighbours know if you are having any work done to your church so that they can be aware of contractors in your church and churchyard;
- Contact your local Police Community Support Officer to discuss the risks to your church and arrange for them to visit.
Further guidance on metal theft can be found at Historic England and the Church Buildings Council. As always, the DAC is able to advise PCCs on the best way to avoid metal theft so please contact us if you have any concerns.
If you experience metal theft or other sudden damage to your church and need urgent permission for immediate repairs, please contact Beverley Mightly at the Diocesan Registry who can send your request to the Chancellor. If the Registry is not available, please contact your Archdeacon.
Other sources of help that you will find useful are –
Churchcare – provided by the Church of England and contains advice on all aspects of building maintenance, security, safety, sustainability, conservation and other matters.
The Church Buildings Council for guidance on church security, conservation and protecting your church treasures.
Ecclesiastical – provided by one of the leading church insurance companies, with guidance documents on subjects such as health and safety, fire and flood, risk assessments, and entering into contracts. You don’t have to use their policies to access the online guidance.
National Churches Trust – including directories of specialist conrtactors, and downloadable templates for Church Maintenance Plans.
Historic England – further guidance on various aspects of maintenance and repair.
“The Churchwarden's Year: A Calendar of Church Maintenance”, Graham Jeffery, 2012 – only available online from Church House Publishing.
“Practical Church Management”, James Behrens, 2014 – available from leading online retailers
Maintenance Booker is the National Churches Trust’s online maintenance service for churches. PCCs can register for the service here. Registration is free.
MaintenanceBooker will enable you to request and receive no-obligation quotes from pre-vetted, qualified and experienced contractors for essential maintenance services including:
- Gutter Clearance and Follow on Repairs
- Lightning Protection System Inspections
- Tree Surveys and Surgery
- Asbestos Management Services
You can find out more by watching the MaintenanceBooker promotional video.
Churches may also be eligible for a grant from the National Churches Trust to cover up to 50% of the cost of gutter clearance provided they book through the MaintenanceBooker site.