Sunday, 25 May 2008

Sunday Telegraph: Dozens of historic buildings to be made redundant

Dozens of churches have been selected for imminent closure under radical plans to merge parishes and save money, The Telegraph has learnt.

The plans have been drawn up by both Church of England and Roman Catholic dioceses and will see some of their most historic buildings made redundant. In one area, buildings with fewer than 100 worshippers are under threat while more than a third of Anglican churches could be lost in one city.

The disclosure comes as more church leaders, celebrities and heritage groups give their support to this newspaper's Save Our Churches campaign. Earlier this month, The Telegraph disclosed that one in five of Britain's churches face closure by 2030.

Among those threatened by the latest plans are St Peter's in Brighton, a Gothic-styled Victorian building, and St Walburge's in Preston, which has the tallest spire of any parish church in England.

Of the 50 Anglican churches in the Brighton area, a review has recommended six closures, with a further 11 at risk, unless there is a marked increase in attendance levels or an improvement in finances. Jonathan Pritchard, Chichester's diocesan secretary, said: "People have recognised that the future of their church as it is is no longer tenable."

Dr Ian Dungavell, the director of the Victorian Society, said: "The best way to look after such national treasures is to keep them in the use for which they were designed or, where that is not possible, to find a new use which will keep what is special about the building intact."

New figures from the Church of England show that 115 buildings were made redundant between 2003 and 2007, while Catholics, Baptists and Methodists are finding it even more difficult to keep their premises open. Read more
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