‘Bridging the Gap’ was a pilot research project conducted by The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), Historic Churches Scotland (HCS), Heritage Trust Network and Churches Trust for Cumbria (CTfC). From January to August 2022 the partners worked with community groups in rural areas in southern Scotland and northern England, to explore the barriers surrounding sustainable community ownership of church buildings.
Communities have an increasingly important role to play in taking ownership of, and/or managing, their historic places of worship, with many faith organisations across the UK looking to dispose of surplus buildings in the coming years (if they have not started already). There are multiple resources available to support community groups in this process but it is often challenging and can take years to find sustainable uses for the building. Evidence from the Taylor Review Pilot and events carried out by HCS and Heritage Trust Network in Scotland, suggests that community rescues of such buildings in rural areas may be more problematic, as sparse populations and aging demographics can make it difficult to recruit sufficient volunteers.
To explore this area further, the partners issued surveys and hosted online and in-person workshops for community groups and sector stakeholders to take part in. Giving participants the opportunity to network, share ideas, hear case studies and explore resources available. The resulting report examines the barriers groups are facing and how they can be overcome and suggests that a more in-depth study of this area would be beneficial.
This project is part of a wider research initiative called ‘Outreach to Ownership’. It is a cross-border pilot programme exploring innovative approaches to inclusive community engagement across culture sector organisations in Scotland and England. The programme is managed in partnership by Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and advised by the AHRC’s Independent Research Organisation Consortium.
To find out more or request the full Report and Appendices (33 pages), please email Sarah Pearce via firstname.lastname@example.org
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