Taking a proactive approach to managing unoccupied churches can help preserve these buildings for future use.
According to the Church of England
, around 20 to 25 churches close each year. Closed churches are visited less often and are not likely to benefit from regular maintenance. This makes them more susceptible to damage including:
- Fire caused by arson or a defective electrical installation
- Vandalism including malicious damage and graffiti
- Theft e.g. damage to the building when gaining access, theft of building materials and contents
- General deterioration caused by adverse weather or water ingress, possibly as a consequence of lack of maintenance
As such there are some extra precautions to take which will help you care for your church whilst it is empty.
Utility services must be disconnected whilst the property is unoccupied, except where there are existing security systems, fire protection systems, security lighting or sprinkler systems. Installed services should be maintained to ensure they continue to be fully effective at all times.
- Central heating systems must be drained down. Where water systems cannot be isolated and drained down, a minimum temperature of 7°C must be maintained within the property at all times.
- Letterboxes must be sealed or, if this is not possible, a metal box or cage must be fitted to the inside of the letterbox. Any post should be removed on a regular basis and arrangements made with the Post Office for mail to be redirected.
- Redundant contents must be removed from the premises, as should all waste and unfixed combustible materials both internally and externally.
- Risk assessments for fire, health and safety and asbestos must be reviewed in light of the changing circumstances. Any appropriate control measures which reduce the risk of injury to any visitors should be implemented or maintained.
- Oil tanks located in the grounds of the site should be drained down.
- Keys should be recalled, otherwise, locks should be changed.
You should also consider how you communicate the church’s closure to the community. If you have social media channels, particularly those with subscriptions you pay for, they should be cancelled.