One in 10 of England's listed places of worship may be in need of urgent major repair and face an uncertain future once a government scheme that provides £12m of annual grants is ended next year, English Heritage has warned.
The conservation body, which has carried out the first survey of England's 14,500 listed churches and places of worship, said that the vast majority of buildings were kept in a good or fair condition, largely thanks to the work of volunteers, but estimates that nearly £1bn of repairs is needed to preserve other imperilled buildings in the next five years.
English Heritage called for the wider community to become involved in restoration projects which could see endangered churches being used as community centres as well as places of worship. Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "Some congregations are finding the responsibility harder to bear unless their whole community comes together to support its most historic and iconic building. I urge everyone who cares about their local church, chapel, synagogue or other place of worship to lend a hand."
The body said it was lobbying the Government to continue funding similar to the Listed Places of Worship Scheme, which ends next March and provides £12m a year towards vital repairs. The Churches Conservation Trust, which backed the move towards shared use of endangered churches, estimates that up to 30 churches are closed each year in England.