Churchyards: Community Use

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th October 2018.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 12:00 am, 18th October 2018

To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what plans the Church of England has to encourage more community use of churchyards.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

This year, the Church Urban Fund showed that mental health and loneliness are a growing issue in our local communities. Parishes are being encouraged to use their churchyards and green spaces to support community gardening projects to promote wellbeing, caring for their community’s mind, body and spirit. The Church of England is working with the Church Times, the Guild of Health and St Raphael, and the Conservation Foundation to launch the Green Health awards to showcase best practice.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. Paignton churchyard is one of the most historic and beautiful places in Torbay, yet the cost of maintaining safe access to it for the community can end up falling on the congregation. What support does the Church of England offer to its local parishes to ensure that they can maintain and enhance access to such special places?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

In respect of where the responsibility for safe access lies, there is a distinction between churchyards that remain open for use, which are the Church of England’s responsibility, and those that are now full, for which the responsibility shifts to local government. In the case my hon. Friend raises, the Church of England would be very supportive if it is still an active churchyard, so to speak.

I am delighted to say that in my hon. Friend’s diocese there are two Green Health award nominees: St Sidwell’s church in Exeter and All Saints in Okehampton. I encourage him to look at other churches in this constituency that might be candidates for such awards.