Praise for gifts to boost roof fund

The church of St Peter and St Paul at Longhoughton held a gift day and pancake party on Shrove Tuesday. Among the organisers were Margaret Murray, Sue Houghton and Andrew Willmott.
The church of St Peter and St Paul at Longhoughton held a gift day and pancake party on Shrove Tuesday. Among the organisers were Margaret Murray, Sue Houghton and Andrew Willmott.

A north Northumberland church has receiving several funding boosts after the roof was deemed to be in urgent need of repair.

A representative of the church of St Peter and St Paul in the village gave its yearly report to the annual meeting of Longhoughton Parish Council.

Andrew Willmott from the church said: “The roof of the church tower is in urgent need of restoration.

“We’re not sure of the exact costs of this yet, because there is some doubt about the state of some of the structural timber work, but it’s going to cost us more than £40,000.

“We started fund-raising in February last year with a Shrove Tuesday pancake party and it was so successful that people asked for another one this year.

“The two of them raised more than £5,000 towards the £15,000 we have managed to collect, more or less, locally over the last 15 months.”

In March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the first round of historic places of worship in the North East to receive more than £546,000 of grants to address urgent roof repairs.

Fourteen parish churches across the region, from a variety of denominations, will now be made weathertight, safe and open for use.

St Peter and St Paul’s Church was part of this funding and is to receive £18,500.

This money was part of a wider funding package of £30million to 502 historic places of worship across the UK, announced in March.

Called the Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund, it was launched by Mr Osborne in his Autumn Statement in December with a UK-wide budget of £15million.

In his 2015 Budget speech, he announced a further commitment of £40million to the fund.

Andrew added: “We’ve also been offered, although not yet received, another £6,500, some from the Joicey Trust and some from the Northumbria Historic Churches Trust.

“We were also delighted, last month, to get a letter from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which has promised us up to £18,500 so we do feel now we have enough to actually make a start.

“This year, instead of talking about raising money to mend the roof, we do hope to actually start the job.

“There are one of two bits of paper work to be sorted out with consents.”

But this is not the only issue the church has to conquer with the roof replacement.

“It is home to a number of bats and, since they are protected, removing the roof will disturb them,” said Andrew.

“There is a lot of legislation about looking after them and there is a fine of £1,000 per bat if we hurt them so we have to do what Bat Trust and Natural England tell us.

“They say that our bats will be active during the summer and, therefore, we have to do work in the winter but if you were going to take the roof off your house and mend it you probably wouldn’t do it in the winter, but that is when we’re going to have to do it. We do believe that, this year, we have enough to start.”