By Tristan Harris 16/05 Updated: 18/05 00:15
BROMSGROVE'S historic St John's Church has become the first Grade 1 listed one in the country to have its lead roof replaced with Glassfibre Reinforced Polyester (GRP).
Work is now complete on the building which dates back to 1656 and suffered seven lead thefts in just six months.
Following these attacks, the church consulted English Heritage about replacing the lead with alternative materials to overcome the risk of future thefts.
English Heritage would only consider stainless steel to lead, but the price of replacing that, at £300,000, was too much for the church.
Thinking practically and economically, the church has now found what it is hoped will be the ideal solution.
The GRP system, known as 'Dryseal', has provided a permanent roof that has a guaranteed 25-year life-span and is considered 'aesthetically pleasing' - all for £70,000.
Over the past few months, the church has had to address a number of questions on the use of Dryseal GRP, relating to legal and technical issues raised by planning and conservation bodies.
The Chancellor for the Diocese of Worcester, a fully-qualified architect, surveyor and barrister, eventually accepted using GRP was both a cost-effective and technically sound solution to a difficult problem.
As well as avoiding having to shell out £230,000 on a lead roof, the church has also been able to contribute more than £10,000 towards the cost of the new roof by selling the remaining lead.
Such is the precedent set by St John's that in November 2011, the issue was raised in Parliament.
Tony Baldry, the Church Estates Commissioner, with responsibility for answering questions in the House, said: “The theft of metal from churches continues to be a serious problem."
And he added: "St John the Baptist church in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, is the first Grade 1 listed church in the country to be granted a faculty to replace its stolen roof with a fibreglass alternative after the church was targeted seven times in six months, despite having installed anti theft measures."
Geoff Stollard, from St John's Church Fabric Committee, said: "This solution allows the church to keep water out of the building, safeguard the beautiful interior and, at the same time, remove the risk of future thefts."
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