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Churches look at new ways of helping communities

Wed 05 Jan 2011

Many churches around Britain are looking to offer a wider range of services to local people.

The Church of England (C of E) is currently encouraging parishes across the country to consider options such as opening a shop, post office or internet cafe on site.

Dr Jill Hopkinson, national rural officer at the C of E, said this would allow them to engage in the Big Society - a key aspect of current government policy.

She noted that many urban churches already offer services of a non-religious nature to members of the public, such as benefit advice.

The C of E issued guidance for parishes that are interested in hosting shops in church buildings in December last year.

Speaking at the time, the Right Reverend James Bell said church buildings can provide the "perfect location" for a community-owned shop.

He added that such a project can enjoy strong support and enthusiasm from volunteers and a suitable space in which to host the venture.

John Rees, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors, commented: "For many years, churches have permitted the use of their towers for mobile phone aerials (often disguised as flagpoles), or for broadcasting local CB radio signals.

"More recently we have assisted in authorising use of church buildings to accommodate Farmers' Markets, shops, Sub-Post Offices and banks.

"All these arrangements need careful planning and security provisions to be put in place, authorised by the diocese, but the paths are well-trodden and the legal structures are familiar and need not be forbidding."ADNFCR-2761-ID-800325154-ADNFCR

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