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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.99

Safeguarding sanctuary: how to control the cost of church security

AceDefence pic1Steve Holland, managing director of Somerset-based Ace Defence Ltd, has been installing church roof alarms for over 10 years. Here he offers some advice on reducing risk while keeping the costs in check.

Talking to a colleague from Ecclesiastical Insurance recently, I learned that metal theft claims have fallen dramatically in recent years. That is in part due to the work of Ecclesiastical in promoting the installation of roof alarms. But with only a small proportion of vulnerable churches protected there is still work to be done. One of the issues is often the cost, but there are ways to save money and sources of funding that can help.

Lead theft has been a concern for centuries, but other metals such as copper are also targets for thieves. News reports appear regularly, highlighting the impact that damage to church roofs can cause. Church Times reported on the theft of lead from the south aisle of St Andrew and St Mary, Pitminster near Taunton, in 2020.

The Rector, Rev Jim Fallon, said: “It was heartbreaking. You could see daylight through the wooden roof-slats. There is a lot of water damage internally as it rained for two days afterwards.”

AceDefence pic2The collateral damage of removing roof coverings is of no concern to the criminals, but is a key reason why the visual and audible warning of an alarm monitored around the clock is an important deterrent. By providing specific funding through their Roof Alarm Grants programme for systems that detect the presence of intruders on the roof, Benefact Trust recognises the unique vulnerability of historic church buildings. Their concern is such that you can apply for a roof alarm grant even if you have received funding for another project from Benefact Trust within the previous two years.

Their grants cover up to 50% of the cost of the alarm, up to a maximum of £2,500. The government-funded Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (LPWGS) offers the opportunity to claim back the VAT on repairs and improvements. That scheme also covers ‘repairs as a result of metal theft where these expenses are not met by an insurance provider’.

Ace Defence Ltd have supplied roof security to a significant 12th-century church in Devon that was the subject of repeated attacks at the end of 2023. The installation of an alarm on the roof has meant that the intruders have been identified and warned off by sounding the alarm, or through guards attending the site. The total cost for providing peace of mind is not high and with support from Benefact Trust and the LPWGS the outlay from the individual parish can be kept to a reasonable level.

With regular maintenance, and monitoring around the clock included in the package we offer, the on-going costs can be partially recouped in reduced insurance premiums if the installation is carried out by an insurer-approved contractor such as Ace Defence Ltd.

For further information visit www.acedefence.com