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Written Statement - Strategic Action plan for Places of Worship in Wales

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism

I am very pleased to share with Assembly Members the new Strategic Action Plan for Places of Worship in Wales, the focus of which is on people and communities using, enjoying and looking after our historic places of worship and finding ways in which these buildings can retain or renew their value at the heart of communities.

Members will be aware that the scoping work for the plan took place towards the end of 2014 and focused on reviewing the state of knowledge and the availability of information, existing support for conservation and current public engagement activity. We then engaged more widely with stakeholders from the denominations, local authorities and the amenity societies. We also consulted colleagues from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the Welsh Archaeological Trusts and colleagues from across Welsh Government Departments including Visit Wales and Housing and Regeneration. The fruits of this consultation were consulted upon again during summer 2015 before I agreed the final plan which now accompanies this Written Statement.

The Strategic Action Plan sets out the range of new measures to be taken forward in partnership with various bodies and denominations to support those responsible for places of worship in facing the challenges of caring for and maintaining them, either in original use or alternative uses.

The action plan takes a cross-sectoral approach to encourage all stakeholders to work together to promote the importance of this unique heritage and provide support for the congregations and communities who care for it. Cadw will help to coordinate activity and will focus its own resources where it can add most value, such as through the provision of advice and guidance. Other actions will be taken forward by partners to ensure ownership across the sector and a true partnership approach.

The Plan sets out a series of short-term, mid-term and long-term actions, and its first priority is establishing a forum to share information and best practice, review ongoing needs and help steer the delivery of theaction plan. Other actions are focused for example on making sure that information that supports sustainable management decisions is accessible, and on developing local capacity to respond to the challenges of maintaining these buildings.

The inaugural meeting of the forum will take place in January 2016 and I plan to attend to thank the sector for their important commitment and to address them directly about the Plan and the importance of partnership working and commitment to yield the full benefits I know this plan can bring.

Like me I know that many of you have concerns about the sustainable futures of our places of worship. I do not think that the Plan is a “fix-all” for the problems faced by our places of worship but it is a good, positive start and I hope you will all get behind the Strategic Action Plan which will help equip people who care for places of worship with the tools to plan for the future and will also help strengthen the approach to engaging the public in the heritage of our religious buildings, encourage the involvement of local communities and complement the Faith Tourism strategy.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.

Strategic Action Plan for Historic Places of Worship in Wales (external link)