Church of England parish churches have a “significant and growing maintenance deficit”, which has prompted calls for government intervention.
The capital cost of ‘needed’ repairs to its 16,000 parish churches is estimated at £ 1 billion over the next five years, according to the Church of England (CoE).
“At best, parishes are currently raising and spending about half of that per year, so there remains a large and growing maintenance deficit on these beautiful and precious buildings,” according to Tory MP Andrew Selous, who as second Commissioner for Estates, speaks on behalf of the Council of Europe in the House of Commons.
His comment came in response to a written parliamentary question from Alex Stafford, the Tory MP for Rother Valley.
Mr Stafford said he wanted the government to step in, warning that the cost of repairs will only rise if left unaddressed.
He told the PA News Agency: “I have a lot of churches in my constituency that are not in good repair.
“I think the UK is very blessed with beautiful churches and a great heritage and history and we have a duty to conserve and restore them and ensure that they are maintained.”
He said: “It is worrying that there is this huge gap between how much is needed each year – so £ 200million – and how much churches are actually investing in it.
“And this problem will increase. If we don’t get these reparations now, they will get worse and worse and the churches will get worse and worse and worse and worse.
“And I really believe that the government must protect them because they are the history of our country. They’ve been there, many of them, for hundreds of years, we have to keep that connection to the past. “
He added: “For me, it is not necessarily about religion, but about our history.”
A Church of England spokesperson said: “The Church of England, through its parishes and cathedrals, looks after approximately 16,000 church buildings – of which 12,500 are listed, of which 45% of all Grade I listed buildings in England. They are a valuable nationwide resource and a presence in every community providing spiritual, pastoral and practical support – something that is more vital than ever.
“They are, of course, expensive to maintain and there is a gap between what local parishes, which are independent charities, are able to raise and the estimated cost of repairs, as has long been the case.
“A general estimate of the unpaid capital cost of necessary repairs to parish churches over the next five years is around £ 1 billion; an additional estimated £ 140 million is required by our 42 cathedrals.
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