English Heritage is ‘spearheading’ yet another campaign, this time to save historic church buildings.
This is strange because in 1933 the then Archbishop of Canterbury won an exemption from the Ancient Monuments Act for church property.
The church after all is governed by its own ecclesiastical law, which has been hugely successful in preserving church buildings: go into almost any town and village and the church will be the outstanding historical monument. Why then should English Heritage barge in on a system that already works well? Yet despite this over 16,800 church buildings have been listed.
The answer appears to be empire building. English Heritage promises to “offer advice and training to congregations to understand what is really special about their place of worship”. This is incredibly arrogant: there are already Diocesan Advisory Committees, mostly very high powered, which do just this. Where is English Heritage going to get all the expertise to double guess the diocesan committees? They are going to “sponsor new posts to mentor congregations and help them carry through the process of applying for a grant or to carry out new work”. Let congregations beware: English Heritage is notorious for its bureaucracy and love of red tape – once they have chanted their mantras of ‘access’ and ‘social exclusion’ the costs of everything will be doubled.
This opinion comes from CA issue 203