Churches: Theft

Church Commissioners written question – answered on 8th July 2019.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, if the Commissioners will make an estimate of the number of thefts of lead from church buildings in (a) the diocese of St Albans and (b) England in (i) 2018 and (ii) 2019 to date.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

Holding answer received on 01 July 2019

The National Church Institutions do not hold information centrally about the theft of metal from Church of England churches, but records are kept at a diocesan level. Anecdotal evidence points to an increase in instances of metal theft from churches nationwide, with East Anglia and the Midlands being most affected.

Home Office Counting Rules do not require the police to record if a theft is from a listed building. The Church of England welcomes the July 2019 Sentencing Council proposals to introduce new sentencing guidelines for arson, criminal damage and vandalism of national heritage assets, including listed buildings, historic objects or unique parts of our historic environment.

Money to fund repairs or adaptations to church buildings is raised by local churches mainly through fundraising and local giving. There is no central Government funding, except through grants in respect of VAT paid on repairs to listed churches.

The following table for the Diocese of St Albans shows cases of metal theft or attempted theft since 2015. The Diocese covers the majority of the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire area and contains 380 Anglican churches.

Year

Number of Attacks

2015

13

2016

23

2017

7

2018

14

2019

5

The Diocese provides advice to local churches on protective and preventative measures, including forensic marking and roof alarms, working with the Beds and Herts Historic Churches Trust and the Allchurches Trust. Grants of up to £3,000 per church have been made available to more than 55 churches in the Diocese. In addition the Diocesan Board of Finance allocated 29 roof alarm grants in 2017 and 2018 from small trust funds for church repairs and maintenance. As a result there has been a significant reduction in the number of cases of metal theft in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, though incidents still occur. For example, in June 2019 St Mary's Church in Furneux Pelham north east Hertfordshire, had 90% of its lead roof stolen or damaged over a single weekend.

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