We have maintained our usual pattern of considering applications (unless very urgent) every six months. However, we have altered our winter meeting from early December to early January so as to allow more time for visits to be made and reports written up. Our winter ‘session’ differed also in that our chairman, Peter Lock, took a sabbatical while he convalesced from a heart operation last autumn. We wish him all the best while he recuperates – and a full recovery in due course. I stood in as acting chairman. My main concern was to ensure that the pub selected for the committee meeting was up to Peter’s high standards!
Jennifer Raikes also missed the meeting in January for medical reasons and Nick Crutchfield was a bit too far away in New Zealand. Both had submitted reports, however. Nigel Whitehead was also unable to attend, again having submitted a report. Having resigned after the June meeting, he is only temporarily helping out while Peter Lock is absent (and thus we are a man down). His continued help is much appreciated and his calm analytical assessment of cases will be missed.
Applications were down slightly compared to last year, but we had two roof alarm applications under the Allchurches Trust scheme to make up to effectively even numbers. The trend towards facilities and services rather than fabric-related requests continued and while roof work remained the single most common need, the installation of toilets was only pipped to second place by a slightly surprising number of window repair and/or protection applications. Quite a few churches proposed to install a servery or kitchenette and heating and electrics faired quite well. The most unusual request was for a hearing aid loop.
The majority of churches are visited by a member of the committee (sometimes, two) and a report and recommendation made. On the meeting day itself we all descend on a few churches and then adjourn to a hostelry (hopefully nearby) for our discussions. This January, on a very cold day, we visited Saint Mary the Virgin in Elham to find it colder inside than out and without any facilities. Having carefully considered the subject of their grant application (a toilet extension, repair and work on the heating and the installation of a servery) and spent further time admiring the building (there’s a lot to see) we walked the short distance to the warmth of the Abbot’s Fireside for hot drinks, food and convenience all round.
One of the interesting aspects of serving on the committee is the variety of churches and applications seen. The buildings range from the relatively small and humble through to the large and impressive – such as St Dunstan’s, Cranbrook. The cost of work varies from a few thousand pounds to £200,000 or more (where any grant from us can only be a small part of a major and well-planned fundraising campaign). Churches can be in isolated rural positions with struggling finances through to comparatively wealthy PCCs in affluent villages or urban areas.
One or two less usual applications included one in respect of a lychgate and the creation of access to roofs to modern safe standards in anticipation of the inevitable need for maintenance and repair in the future.
Paul Wallace, Acting chairman