HC Deb 12 December 1983 vol 50 cc668-9
24. Mr. Chapman

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, how many ecclesiastical buildings for which the commissioners are responsible of formerly grade A classification have been demolished in the past 10 years; and what percentage of the total number this figure represents.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing Church Commissioners (Sir William van Straubenzee)

Between 1 April 1969, when the pastoral measure came into effect, and 30 November 1983, the commissioners have been responsible for deciding the future of 83 grade A listed redundant churches. Only one of these buildings has been demolished. A further 23 have been appropriated to suitable new uses and the balance of 59 have been vested in the redundant churches fund for care and maintenance.

Mr. Chapman

Many people will find my hon. Friend's reply somewhat surprising, but immensely reassuring. Presumably the church that has been demolished is Holy Trinity church, Rugby. I understand that there are about 2,250 grade A churches in England alone. Would my hon. Friend carry to the Church Commissioners the congratulations of all who care for our ecclesiastical architectural heritage, and our thanks for their success in resisting the demolition of our architecture?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I am overwhelmed, but much obliged to my hon. Friend. This treatment is somewhat different from that to which I am accustomed. The pastoral measure, as recently amended, contains very strict safeguards. That is why, for example, the 1983 edition of The English Heritage Monitor, which takes a neutral stance, is able to comment that a listed building is over three times more likely to be demolished than a listed church.

Mr. Robert Atkins

We have an incredible heritage of grade A listed churches and other old churches. Does it not, therefore, behove the Church Commissioners —who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) said, are already doing a wonderful job —to press the Government even more strongly to ensure that the funds required to maintain that heritage are forthcoming?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I take the point, but it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge publicly the considerable advance that has been made in the partnership between Church and state for the help of churches in use. Of course, I refer to all churches in use and not just those of the Church of England.