HC Deb 22 March 1999 vol 328 cc15-6
33. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

What discussions he has had with English Heritage regarding that body's support for bell towers of redundant churches. [75998]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners)

Redundant churches are the responsibility of the relevant diocese pending a decision on their future. They then become the responsibility of the new owner if an alternative use is agreed, or the Churches Conservation Trust, if they are to be preserved by that body. It follows from this that we have had no discussions with English Heritage.

Mr. Robathan

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a recent newspaper report stated that English Heritage was placing such strict criteria on the repair of bell towers that some—redundant or otherwise—would not be able to ring in the millennium because the repairs would cost too much? I know from my church in Leicestershire that English Heritage is so strict as to be absurd. English Heritage does a good job, but will he and the commissioners ensure that the merits of a building are not judged at such an absurd level that the building can no longer operate in the way intended?

Mr. Bell

The Church does not wish to prevent anyone from ringing their church bells for the millennium, and English Heritage has regular meetings with the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to discuss matters such as those raised by the hon. Gentleman.

I could not let this opportunity pass without referring to the bell ringing exercise in Aston, Birmingham yesterday, during a football match at Aston Villa—not too far from your constituency, Madam Speaker. We are always happy to announce that more people attend church services over the weekend than attend football matches. We like church bells to be rung, whether from redundant churches or otherwise.

Forward to