Methodist Property Update
Coronavirus Guidance for Property
Updated on 19 May 2020 in light of current Government Guidelines
The Government launched its new strategy to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic in its document - Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy. A number of points within the plan will have an impact on churches and their properties across the Connexion. In response to this the Conference Office, Connexional Property Team and TMCP have co-ordinated their approach to develop a set of property related guidance for managing trustees. This guidance is outlined below under relevant ‘themed’ headings to help trustees find the specific guidance which is relevant to their church, or signposts to other websites for other relevant information.
We also encourage those who do not find guidance specific to their situation to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with their query. This will be used to generate further FAQ’s on the website to assist the wider Connexion.
Guidance in Scotland & Wales
We await further details of the devolved administration policy steps in Scotland and Wales, and therefore guidance will currently only be relevant to England; we will monitor the situation and update guidance when more details are released.
Overriding Principles to Planning within local Churches
We wish to highlight two key principles to any planning work being undertaken locally:
- “The overriding priority remains to save lives”
This is a quote in the forward to HM Government’s Covid-19 strategic planning document ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’ (12th May 2020) – this must be at the heart of any planned use of church property.
- Communicate and Co-operate
The implementation of any local strategy will be based upon good communication between all parties and working together in partnership. This second principle will support the best outcomes for the first principle.
Summary of Connexional Guidance
Below is a summary of the guidance which is provided to give ‘headline’ decisions in relation to elements of the policy changes affecting churches. Detailed guidance is then contained under each specific section. Please note the following general points though:
- Church property still remains closed, other than designated uses or for inspections.
- Only the relevant parts of a church property affected by these changes should be reopened.
- This guidance may not affect all churches and therefore some existing guidance still remains.
- As government guidance is constantly being reviewed and updated, please refer to www.gov.uk/coronavirus . The teams will also review the guidance regularly and provide updates or FAQ’s as new guidance emerges over the coming weeks.
Public Spaces, Outdoor Activity & Re-opening External Places of Exercise
Restrictions for movement, exercise and opening of external places for exercise have been amended, this section covers changes in visits, checks and general external maintenance:
- Property Inspections for churches which remain closed. Please refer to Construction Advice during Covid-19 for further details.
- Maintenance of outdoor church spaces including burial grounds (please see FAQ below)
- Access restrictions & social gatherings
Opening Buildings Considerations (general guidance associated with specific situations)
Churches themselves remain closed, but some activities are being encouraged to commence, in some cases these take place on church premises. Please refer to the Re-Opening a Building Checklist (pdf version) and conduct a Covid-19 Risk Assessment (pdf version) before opening the building.
Property Projects & Repairs
Government policy is encouraging the construction industry to restart activities, on that basis we will be suggesting that it is now acceptable for churches to consider restarting or undertaking maintenance, repairs and building projects. This must only be undertaken if the works can meet the strict guidance for social distancing and the safety of workers and church members alike. Please refer to the Construction Advice during Covid-19 as it covers a different of areas of construction, together with other factors that trustees need to consider in discussion with their professional advisors and contractors.
Education in Early Years Settings
Government policy is encouraging the reopening of early year’s settings educational provision which includes nurseries and pre-schools. Some churches provide accommodation to or directly run these types of provision so it is acceptable, in the right settings and conditions, for churches to consider reopening these provisions or working with those who deliver such a provision. There are a number of considerations which is covered in the Connexional guidance to assist managing trustees and to cover the different settings, to meet the government guidance and ensure that this provision can be safely delivered.
Other Property Users
Government policy is to encourage continued working from home, but there may be situations where this is not possible. We provide in this section information to assist managing trustees in making decisions on reopening to other users, together with others who might access the building on an infrequent basis. There is also reference to those projects which may have continued during the initial lockdown period.
To underpin any activities starting within the above settings it is imperative that managing trustees risk assess each and every situation and decision. The Covid-19 Risk Assessment (pdf version) has been created with guidance and generic considerations when undertaking this vital work. If the church has been closed during lockdown, please refer to the Re-Opening a Building Checklist (pdf version).
Ensuring that the correct cleaning regimes are established and maintained is imperative to stop the further spread of the Covid-19 virus. In the Covid-19 Risk Assessment (pdf version), there is general guidance provided on adapting cleaning regimes. When first opening a building, please refer to the Re-Opening a Building Checklist (pdf version). If the building is listed, please refer to Historic England's How to Clean Historic Surfaces. If historic items, such as stained glass, need to be cleaned, please contact the Conservation Officer for guidance.
Further guidance can be found on:
- Official Coronavirus Guidance from the Methodist Church
- Methodist Insurance
- TMCP's Covid 19 FAQ’s section
Frequently Asked Questions (soon to be updated)
These are general questions but if you have a specific questions, please contact Property Support or your DPS.
- Should a record be kept of who enters the building? (updated 19 May 2020)
- While a church is empty, is it possible to carry out a deep clean? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Are we allowed to cut the grass or other gardening in the church yard? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Should I be concerned about legionella? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Can I carry out organ maintenance? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Is there any funding available? (updated 19 May 2020)
- As the building is empty, is general maintenance allowed? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Should the church have its Quinquennial Inspection? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Can we undertake some essential repairs? (updated 19 May 2020)
- There has been some vandalism, are we allowed to repair it? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Our church is part-way through a building project. Can work resume? (updated 19 May 2020)
- My church is due to start work on a building project. What should we do? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Should gas safety inspections or service to the gas boilder go ahead? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Can we access our churches for other reasons apart from building checks? (updated 19 May 2020)
- Can I collect the post from the church? (updated 19 May 2020)
- What about groups that lease out space in the building?
- Does the church need to close?
- How do I keep the building secure while it is empty? (updated 5.4.20)
- What about funerals?
- What about rental income?
- Do we need to lock the church grounds?
- What should we do if people are gathering in the church grounds?
- We are in the middle of buying and selling a property - what should we do?
- What about erecting public notices outside churches?