THE Diocese of Carlisle is supporting a three year project, launched to help maintain Cumbria's historic churches. The 'Maintenance Cooperatives Project' will be run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund. The aim is to create a network of volunteers across the county to allow people to develop skills in the repair and upkeep of their places of worship. Sue Manson, the Cumbrian Project Officer for SPAB, said: “We hope this project will be a real help to all the volunteers who look after Cumbria's historic places of worship by providing training, support and skill sharing opportunities. The project is open to faith buildings of all denominations and indeed all ages. “Regular maintenance is vital for all properties, regardless of age, scale or purpose and this project aims to encourage and support people already involved, and hopefully to get more people involved with looking after churches and places of worship at the heart of many communities. ”Research shows that every one pound spent carrying out preventative maintenance could save £20 in avoidable repairs within five years.” Cumbria is one of five regions in the UK to receive funding for the Maintenance Cooperatives. The plan is to set up five of the groups across the county over the next three years. The cooperatives will be part of a national network which will allow the sharing of ideas, resources and good practice as well as providing peer-to-peer support. It will include a free tailored training programme for heritage-related skills designed to meet local needs and interests. The scheme has been welcomed by The Ven Richard Pratt, Archdeacon of West Cumberland, who also has responsibility for buildings strategy for the Church of England in Cumbria. He said: “The maintenance and upkeep of our churches presents a very real strain on finances but it is imperative we do all we can to ensure our historic places of worship remain fit for purpose and open to all. “By acting today to maintain places of worship properly, it means subsequent repair costs in the future can be drastically reduced. “Schemes such as this will help empower members of our congregations with all the necessary skills to make this happen.“ The project follows on from a Faith in Maintenance training programme which SPAB ran for five years and included three training sessions in Cumbria. To start the project off there will be three free taster maintenance training days this year, open to everyone. Anyone interested in hosting one of these training days is asked to contact Sue Manson directly on 07776 197143 or via email at The website can be accessed at