How to look after, develop and utilise them
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2. UNDERTAKING REPAIRS AND/OR MAKING CHANGES TO YOUR CHURCH BUILDING
The process for seeking permission to undertake repairs and/or making changes to your church building
Church buildings are places for the community to gather for the worship of God. The rich and awe-inspiring heritage of the buildings adds a further dimension to this and many church buildings are protected by law because of their architectural or historic significance and cannot be altered without specific consent.
In this section…
2.1 Statements of Significance and Need
2.2 Seeking permission under Ecclesiastical Exemption
2.3 Non-Exempted Denominations
2.4 Secular Statutory Controls
2.1 Statements of Significance and Need
You cannot undertake any works in your church until you have obtained the relevant permissions, which may involve both church and secular planning authorities. Ensure you check with your relevant building advisers at Diocesan, District, Synod or national level to find out what you will need to do.
This section explains how you seek the relevant permission/s to undertake works to your church buildings.
Over 75% of rural places of worship are listed. A listed building is protected by the Town and Country Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
To find out if your place of worship is listed go to the Historic England website and search the National Heritage List for England historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Your local planning authority can also provide you with information on the listing grade of your church, the listing description, details of conservation areas and information on any existing tree preservation orders.
You should also bear in mind, that even if your building is not listed, in many instances, you will still need to seek permission.
Even if it is listed, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make changes or enhance your building. After all, church buildings have always been adapted to meet changing liturgical requirements and reflect social change. It just means that you will have to present good reasons and work sensitively within the particular historical and architectural aspects of the building. The best tools for this are: –
Statements of Significance and Need
Completing Statements of Significance and Need will help you to understand your place of worship, its history and any previous changes that have taken place. This is a requirement for any building project involving a listed place of worship. Taking the time to do this will reveal potential opportunities as well as limits. If your building is listed, you may not be able to make all the changes you want and you may have to seek advice on how to achieve what you want. Most changes will require permission. Like for Like repairs and maintenance should not need permission, but it is always best to check.
A Statement of Significance should describe how the building has evolved over time. It should describe when the various parts of the building were constructed and when notable additions were made to the interior, for instance the pews, the pulpit, organ or stained glass. It should provide a summary of why they are important and the contributions they make to the character of the building. A good understanding of the significance of your building is essential for delivering a successful project. It will help inform decisions and identify possible areas of conflict. A Statement of Significance should be an objective document and be in place before you start formulating ideas on specific projects. You should revisit this Statement at regular intervals over the years and consider it at all times to be a working document
A Statement of Need should be a document which serves both the parish and those involved in the faculty (permission-granting) process. It is the parish’s opportunity to explain, justify and rationalise the proposals to all interested parties, having regard to the Statement of Significance and the impact of the proposed changes. It should set out the reasons why it is considered that the needs of the parish cannot be met without making changes to the church building and why the particular proposed changes are regarded as necessary to assist the church in its worship and mission. Liturgical requirements will have to be balanced alongside any proposals for the enhancement of the building for easier access and wider use by the community. The Statement should particularly highlight the significance of those parts which are to be altered.
Conservation Management Plans
Some major churches are of such complexity and significance, or the impact of the proposed project so large and controversial, that Statements of Significance and Needs may not be sufficient.
WHERE TO FIND MORE HELP
ChurchCare has guidance here
The Methodist Church has information here www.methodist.org.uk/for-ministers-and-office-holders/property/conservation/ and
Historic England historicengland.org.uk/advice/caring-for-heritage/places-of-worship/making-changes-to-your-place-of-worship/principles-for-making-changes/assessing-significance/
2.2 Seeking permission under Ecclesiastical Exemption
Any alterations or extensions to a listed church building which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historical interest, requires listed building consent or its equivalent.
The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) England Order 2010 gives exemption from listed building and conservation area consent for the five main denominations in England and also the Church in Wales.
It recognises the particular function of the buildings as places of worship and ensures that sacred uses are protected, the parishioners are duly consulted and that the wider aesthetic interests of the public are considered. The system balances mission and worship and wider community use with care and conservation.
The Ecclesiastical Exemption reduces burdens on the planning system while maintaining an appropriate level of protection and reflecting the particular need of listed buildings in use as places of worship to be able to adapt to changing needs over time to ensure their survival in their intended use. It is widely acknowledged that keeping a building in use is more likely to result in the preservation, proper maintenance and sustainability of that building. To read guidance on the Operation of the Ecclesiastical Exemption and related planning matters for places of worship in England (July 2010) go to:
The six denominations are:
- The Church of England
- The Roman Catholic Church
- The Methodist Church
- The Baptist Union of Great Britain
- The United Reformed Church
- Church in Wales
They are exempted from the following parts of planning legislation as follows:
- Listed Building Consent (LBC)
- Conservation Area Consent
- Building Preservation Notices
- Compulsory acquisition of buildings in need of repair
- Urgent Works Notices
In 2010, for England only, exemption was extended to include separately listed structures within the curtilage such as churchyard walls, railings, and monuments which no longer need LBC when works are required.
The exemption does not exclude the building from the jurisdiction of planning permission, dangerous structure notices, advertising consents, buildings regulations, or any other secular legislation e.g. Health and Safety regulations. So you will need planning permission for changes that affect the external appearance of a building e.g. a new doorway, the infilling of a porch, changes to roofing materials or an extension.
In return for the Exemption, the six denominations have demonstrated that they operate an equivalent system to manage change to listed ecclesiastical buildings and unlisted buildings in conservation areas. So if your church building belongs to one of the six denominations above and you want to make changes that would normally fall under the exempted parts of the planning legislation, you will need to apply for ‘permission’ from your denomination.
Churches of other denominations that want to carry out building works have to apply to their local planning authority in the same way as any other secular building.
All listed places of worship also have to consult Historic England, Cadw (Wales), Historic Scotland, or the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency, the local planning authority and the relevant national amenity societies about works that would otherwise require listed building consent. The proposals, if the changes will substantially affect the character of the building and where external works are proposed, also have to be advertised locally by way of a site notice and in an advertisement in a local paper. Your denomination or equivalent advisory body can advise you on all of this.
Each of the six exempt denominations operates its own consent system and each has extensive guidance on their individual websites. Links to the relevant sections on their websites explaining their consent processes are listed at the end of this chapter.
The rest of the section will concentrate on what happens within the Church of England which operates the Faculty Jurisdiction System. The basic process will be the same for all denominations, but you need to check your own denomination’s system.
The Faculty Jurisdiction
‘It ensures that churches are properly cared for and that whatever is done to them is properly considered beforehand and carried out in the most appropriate way. The system recognises that churches are living buildings, many of which are of great historic significance but all of which exist for the worship of God and the mission of the Church. It acknowledges that a community’s needs change over time’.
The Church of England’s mechanism for regulating changes to its buildings, contents and churchyards is in the form of the Faculty Jurisdiction. Faculty Jurisdiction applies to all Anglican parish churches, listed and unlisted and was in existence long before modern planning systems. A faculty (meaning ‘permission’) is a licence to carry out work.
Nearly all dioceses now administer faculty through the online faculty system. facultyonline.churchofengland.org/home.
If your diocese is one of these all references to papers below can be taken to mean electronic documents submitted online. If you are unsure your DAC Secretary will advise you.
In order to carry out any changes or repairs, whether it’s to the building’s structure, internal decoration or contents, you must have a faculty, authorising the works.
However, there are two categories of work that since 1st January 2016, when the new simplified Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 came into force, do not require a faculty.
The national ‘A’ List of works includes those which can be carried out on your church without a Faculty. This replaces all Diocesan De Minimis and Minor Works Lists. List A works are nearly all routine maintenance and will not affect fabric or historic material.
The national ‘B List’ of works includes those that can be carried out once the written permission of the Archdeacon has been obtained. The Archdeacon will consult with the DAC Secretary for informed informal advice and may set conditions on the way the works are carried out. As a general guide works are likely to be on List B if they do not amount to a change of character of a listed building, although there are some exceptions – which include most archaeology, work to memorials and works that raise questions of doctrine or ceremonial usage.
You can see the lists of works for both List A and List B explained here www.churchofengland.org/more/church-resources/churchcare/church-buildings-council/how-we-manage-our-buildings#na and here legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/1568/schedule/1/made
However, even in this situation, you must have it in writing that a faculty is not required. To find out more go to www.churchofengland.org/more/church-resources/churchcare/church-buildings-council/how-we-manage-our-buildings
and for further advice contact your DAC Secretary. www.churchofengland.org/more/church-resources/churchcare/church-buildings-council/how-we-manage-our-buildings/dac-map
Talk to your DAC
This Chapter can only provide a basic overview of the faculty process. Seek detailed advice from your DAC or equivalent.
The first stage in obtaining a faculty consists of getting advice from the DAC. DAC members have experience in a number of fields, covering building conservation, liturgy, archaeology etc. This expertise is freely available and parishes should contact their DAC at the earliest stage in their thinking so as to allow the Committee’s advice to be included in the project planning.
Further consultation may be required with the Church Buildings Council and other statutory bodies such as Historic England and the National Amenities Society who will be invited to express their opinion on the proposed changes. The DAC can advise on this and on what documents and paperwork you will need to provide and at what stage this should happen. It is helpful to all consultees to have a draft of your Statements of Significance and Needs ready before inviting them to give advice. Even if these documents change as the project evolves, an early indication of your thinking will help all those involved – including you.
It is strongly recommended that all faculty applications are discussed with the DAC Secretary before submission.
Once the DAC has formally considered the proposal, it will issue a Notification of Advice. This will either support the project or not and may include conditions.
This is sent to the parish accompanied by a public notice, which must be displayed for 28 days, giving parishioners and others the opportunity to make representations. Just like local authority planning, this gives the general public and any other interested parties the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes.
Next the parish petitions formally for a faculty, by sending the faculty form provided by the DAC to the Diocesan Registrar together with information about the proposals, such as plans, specifications and the PCC resolution.
The Registrar will present the case to the Diocesan Chancellor to determine. A great many cases are straightforward and a faculty can be issued promptly. However, some proposals will attract comment or even an objection. If these objections are substantial, the chancellor may hold a formal court hearing at the church. There is more information at
Remember, if a faculty is granted, it has been granted based upon the information you supplied. If you make any subsequent changes to your plans or project you must notify the Registry before implementing them.
As explained above, you may also have to apply for permissions from other authorities e.g. changes to the exterior means that planning permission is also required from the local authority before works starts, so the expected timescale to obtain this needs to be built into your project timetable. It is usually best to apply for planning permission and faculty in parallel. If either becomes protracted undertaking one before the other could cause significant delay.
The faculty process needs take no longer than the normal local authority planning process, but it does take time. Bear this in mind, because you need this process to fit in with your funding programme too. Applying for funding can take time, and some funders may require work to begin by a specific date. Never start work before you have the appropriate permission.
WHERE TO GO FOR MORE HELP
If you are from one of the six denominations in the UK that operates under Ecclesiastical Exemption here are links to further information on the process you need to follow.
The Church of England’s mechanism for regulating changes to its buildings, contents and churchyards is in the form of the Faculty Jurisdiction. It covers all parish churches whether listed or not.
Making Changes to Churches and Churchyards: Faculty Jurisdiction Explained: A Guide to Law and Practice by Charles Mynors (Paperback – 2 June 2016) bloomsbury.com/uk/changing-churches-9781441156433
In the Catholic Church in England and Wales, the care of all its church buildings comes under the Patrimony committee. The Church exercises particular care over these buildings through its Diocesan structures. With regard to listed churches and chapels, any work that would normally require Listed Building Consent requires the consent of the local Historic Churches Committees. There are 13 Committees covering England and Wales. Three cover more than one diocese and ten operate within individual dioceses. For more information www.cbcew.org.uk/home/our-work/patrimony/historic-churches-committee
The system of control adopted by the Methodist Church is called Property Consents. All applications for Consent are dealt with centrally.
The online Property Consent website provides the means for Managing Trustees to apply for consent for property projects, create new projects and progress through the website from church to circuit to district: propertyconsent.methodist.org.uk/guide and here
You will also find links here to guidance on Ecclesiastical Exemption and the
Listed Building Advisory Committee as well as guidance on undertaking work to a listed building or a non-listed building in a Conservation Area.
In the United Reformed Church, the mechanism is called the United Reformed Church Procedure. The URC is currently preparing revised and updated pages on all issues to do with buildings. ‘If you have any questions, please contact your Synod’s Property/Trust Officer’. urc.org.uk/plato-property-handbook1/613-plato-property-handbook.html
There is some information here urc.org.uk/images/s661%20v2011.pdf
In the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Listed Buildings Advisory Committee was established in 1994 to determine applications from Baptist congregations in England and Wales who want to make alterations to their listed buildings. It is appointed by and accountable to the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and also operates on behalf of the Baptist Union of Wales. The Baptist Union Corporation has written leaflets to help local churches with practical issues, legal matters, property opportunities and problems, and charity law. They can all be downloaded here baptist.org.uk/Groups/220867/Listed_Buildings.aspx The leaflets specific to listed churches buildings and Ecclesiastical Exemption are LB01 – LB04
For the Church in Wales visit here churchinwales.org.uk/structure/representative-body/property
Crossing the Threshold Toolkit: Chapters 5 and 6
CHAPTER 5: Developing your Ideas – Options Appraisal, Feasibility Study,
Architect’s Brief and the Design Stages
helps you to assess all the options and work out which solution your Group feels provides the best solution and is the most feasible. It also offers guidance on writing Statements of Need and Significance and explains the process of appointing an architect.
CHAPTER 6: Balancing the Need for Change with Heritage and Liturgical Considerations – Legalities and the Church Planning Process
helps you to design your building project while taking into account the heritage of your building and liturgical requirements. It also explains the permission process.
The toolkit is free to download from hereford.anglican.org/Crossingthethresholdtoolkit
2.3. Non-Exempted Denominations
Other denominations proposing building works have to apply to their local authority in the same way as any other building.
All listed places of worship will have to consult Historic England, the local planning authority and the relevant national amenity societies (see below in Section 2.4 Secular Controls) about works that would otherwise require listed building consent.
The proposals must also be advertised locally by way of a site notice and, where external works are proposed, through an advertisement in a local paper. Your denomination can advise you on all of this.
Quakers/Society of Friends
The Advisory Committee on Property (ACP), a sub-committee of the Quaker Finance & Property Central Committee, acts as the central advisory body to Area Meetings and other owning bodies relating to meeting houses and other property used for the purposes of the Society (including burial grounds and trust property). It is charged with gathering together the knowledge and experience of Friends in relation to their ownership and use of property and to ease the task of keeping such property in good order, so it may be used as an asset to further the life and work of the Society in Britain.
The ACP will advise on property matters relating to redundancy, demolition, sale, lease, purchase, alteration, extension, historic buildings, repair and the maintenance of existing buildings and new buildings. Advice can be given on matters relating to any proposed development which could affect the setting of a meeting house or other building. Additionally, assistance can be given to obtain the full value of property leased or sold, for the benefit of future generations. The ultimate decision on any of these matters will rest with the owning body. You can find out more here
The Congregational Federation brings together around 300 congregations across the UK. The Congregational Federation Ltd was formed in 1972 to act as Trustees for Federation churches and for the assets of the Congregational Federation. The Federation brings together independent churches characterised by a Congregationalist church governance and Dissenting theology. It provides support and guidance to member churches both financially and otherwise. They are able to give legal and building advice to those Congregational churches which are members of the Federation.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches (EFCC)
EFCC is a fellowship of about 1105 independent churches in the United Kingdom. Congregationalism, following the teachings of the New Testament, believes that each local church is completely autonomous, under the headship of Jesus Christ, and has within itself all that it needs for the health and well-being of the church. Congregationalism thus has no denominational hierarchy above the local church. EFCC exists to provide like-minded churches with a means of mutual encouragement and support. efcc.org.uk
Maintaining the fabric of the building is often one of the top concerns for Unitarian Trustees and Congregational Committees.
The Buildings Advisory Panel will offer clear guidance and practical support on developing, financing and maintaining congregational buildings and land. It reports to the Denominational Support Commission. unitarian.org.uk/pages/building-management
The Salvation Army
All information and guidance about how to look after your buildings, fund-raising and community outreach can be found on the internal website. salvationarmy.org.uk
2.4 Secular Statutory Controls
As explained in Section 2.2 and 2.3, there are also other secular controls that are applicable to churches. Further information on the secular controls applicable to churches and their immediate surroundings including below ground, their furnishings, fittings and churchyard are available from national building advisers and your local planning authority.
Your denomination will also be able to advise on who else you need to consult with and/or seek permission. This will depend on whether you belong to an Exempted denomination and the type of work.
There is also a useful section on ChurchCare
and also on the Historic England website historicengland.org.uk/advice/caring-for-heritage/places-of-worship/caring-for-places-of-worship
The National Amenity Societies
The Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991, formally recognised the significance of the National Amenity Societies’ contribution and established a framework for regular consultation on faculty applications concerning the fabric of historic churches, which parallels secular arrangements. Consultation with the National Amenity Societies is now directed under Circular 01/01 from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister* on those works which include any form of demolition to a listed building. This might include breaching historic walls with new openings as well as the removal of historic fixtures and fittings. Whatever the change being proposed, early consultation with the appropriate amenity society as well as with Historic England and the Church Buildings Council is recommended. A good time to do this is when initial plans are produced. This might be arranged via your DAC Secretary or equivalent, so an early discussion with them on process is also strongly recommended.
(*On 5th May 2006 the responsibilities of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) transferred to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Circular 01/01 can be read here:
The Societies have extensive experience of advising on alterations to historic churches. They have a nationwide network of contacts and although their resources are limited, the societies are willing to provide informal advice to parishes and congregations about proposals affecting historic churches. They may also be able to suggest suitable craftsmen, architects, surveyors or structural engineers for specialist work
The National Amenity Societies that you may have to consult are :
The Ancient Monuments Society looks at ancient monuments and historic buildings of all periods. ancientmonumentssociety.org.uk
The Council for British Archaeology looks at historic buildings of all periods, but with a particular concern for archaeological features. new.archaeologyuk.org
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) looks primarily at buildings from before 1700 but has an interest in buildings and their historic features from all periods and will often take an ‘overview’ of buildings with work from a variety of dates. spab.org.uk
The Georgian Group looks at buildings and features of between 1700 to 1837 georgiangroup.org.uk
The Victorian Society looks at buildings and features of between 1837 and 1915 (Victorian and Edwardian periods) victoriansociety.org.uk
The Twentieth Century Society looks at buildings and features of after 1914 c20society.org.uk
For more information on the Statutory Amenity Societies go to: historicengland.org.uk/advice/hpg/publicandheritagebodies/amenitysocieties