We hope 2023 will be a very significant year for TOCAG. These are our main focuses
In order to consider taking over management of the tower it is essential for TOCAG to be absolutely clear about the scale of the challenge and that it is feasible to take on this responsibility.
A brief for a condition survey was sent out to several organisations in November 2022. Basically the desired outcome of the brief is to assess in detail the condition of the tower and churchyard and produce a prioritised and costed list of works required to keep it safe, secure and physically stabilised, with no further deterioration or damage.
The brief attracted 5 responses. These were found to vary greatly in scope and price and in most cases exceeded the funds allocated to carry out the exercise so, in further discussions with Historic England and the Diocese of St Albans in December 2002, there were three significant developments
Those who responded have been asked to submit an amended tender in January
It is now planned to
TOCAG wish to be a party to the ‘Section 17 Management agreement’ with the Diocese and Historic England which is the contract under which the condition survey is executed.
This would allow TOCAG to negotiate contracts and handle grants in its own right, which is an essential situation for the future in any case.
The application to be a CIO is slightly complicated by the fact that TOCAG does not have any legal interest in the site, which causes the Charity Commission to be concerned that the charity is not empowered to implement its constitution. The Diocese have produced a statement of intent and we hope that they will take the view that there is a viable pathway to TOCAG taking on the intended responsibilities
An application will be submitted in early January and we will see what happens.
We have a minimum quorum of trustees for this exercise and a limited base of financial, operational and legal experience. Making our CIO more robust with new trustees is a high priority – please let us know if you could contribute in any capacity, however limited
The Condition Survey should make it clear how much it will cost to repair and maintain the tower, but obviously that money has to come from somewhere. Added to costs of physical repairs will be those involved in transferring ownership, routine maintenance, insurance, admin costs and working capital for unplanned items such as dealing with vandalism.
TOCAG will need to understand where grants are available, where it may be possible to fundraise from subscriptions, events and donations and synthesise this into a viable business plan.
We will then need to begin acting on those applications which will need to be sufficiently successful to provide pathway forward.
Unless and until TOCAG can match the financial liabilities with available funds it cannot take on the tower.
To a great extent, TOCAG will need to have community support in this next stage of our journey (see Get Involved) – it will become unviable for just a few volunteers to deliver on this vision. To a great extent time, and professional skills/advice will be as or more important than money/ donations which is in short supply in these days of austerity.
Many historic sites can justify significant grants on the basis that the building is brought into use by the community. Our Old Church Tower has very limited potential in that respect – being remote, without access or services and sealed. All of these are solvable issues, but not without money, plans and a community mandate we do not have in our sights right now.
What we can try and do instead is to establish a digital presence and services that (to borrow a phase) ‘inform, educate and entertain’, using the Old Church as a digital icon for the history of the area as much as it is a physical icon in the landscape.
This could mean
If you are creative & outgoing, like history research, teaching or communicating there could be a vital place for you in this.
Everything above leads to the watershed moment of taking control, transferring ownership and giving the tower the repairs attention it so richly deserves.
Our current plan is for a local landowner to be the owner of the site, with TOCAG having a long term lease. Until TOCAG had a much firmer future, we do not feel it is viable to aspire to be long term owners – but depending on how we grow the organisation and the situation stabilises, perhaps that is one for the future