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 the Church in Wales.
It recognises the particular function of our 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: http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/OPSEEguidance.pdf
The five denominations within England are:
- The Church of England
- The Roman Catholic Church
- The Methodist Church
- The Baptist Union of Great Britain
- The United Reformed Church
And they are exempted from the following parts of planning legislation as follows:
- Listed Building Consent (LBC)
- Conservation Area Consent
- Building Preservation Notice
- 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. You need planning permission for changes that affect the external appearance of a building.
So if your church building is listed and belongs to one of the five denominations above and you want to make changes that would normally fall under the exempted parts of the planning legislation, then you will need to apply for ‘permission’ from your denomination.
In return for the Exemption, the five denominations have to demonstrate that they operate acceptable internal procedures for dealing with proposed works to listed ecclesiastical buildings and unlisted buildings in conservation areas. The internal procedures for such exempt denominations must be as stringent as the procedures required under the secular heritage protection system.
All listed place of worship have to also consult English Heritage, the local planning authority and the relevant national amenity societies (see below) about works that would otherwise require listed building consent. The proposals also have to be advertised locally by way of a site notice and, where external works are proposed, an advertisement in a local paper. Your denomination can advise you on all of this.
WHERE TO GO FOR MORE HELP
If you are from one of the five denominations in England, here are the links to further information on how each one operates the Ecclesiastical Exemption and guidance on the process you will 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. To find out more and the process for obtaining a Faculty (meaning a permission) see:
Your first point of contact will be your Diocese. Most Diocesan websites now have information about looking after your church building including lists of approved architects and surveyors, which can be found usually under the heading of the care of church buildings. Next make contact with your Diocesan Advisory Committee Secretary who will be able to advise you further.
The Church of England’s quinquennial inspection system provides for the inspection of church buildings every five years by an architect or chartered building surveyor approved by the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) http://www.churchcare.co.uk/about-us/who-s-who/dacs/dac-contact-details.
The quinquennial report is one of the key documents which assist the Parochial Church Council (PCC) in the care and repair of a church building, for which it is legally responsible. It gives a snapshot of the repair needs of the building, and lists the repairs required according to their priority. It is also read by the DAC, the archdeacon and by any grant-giving bodies which the PCC approaches.
For guidance on the detailed working of the scheme go to http://www.churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/looking-after-your-church/quinquennial-inspections.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the care of all its church buildings comes under the Patrimony committee. The word ‘Patrimony’ describes the Church’s cultural inheritance in terms of architecture, art and artefacts. The overall objective of the Patrimony Committee is to ‘encourage the appreciation, care and enhancement of the patrimony of the Church in its sacredness and beauty and to see this as a revelation of God’s love, as an expression of faith and worship and as a resource for the vitality and continuation of the Church’s mission’. One of the principal responsibilities of the Patrimony Committee is to monitor and support the work of the Church’s Historic Churches Committees.
The Church itself 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 of these cover more than one diocese and ten operate within individual dioceses. For more information go to: http://www.cbcew.org.uk/page.aspx?pid=464
You will find the information on the Ecclesiastical Exemption at http://www.cbcew.org.uk/page.aspx?pid=730 and http://www.cbcew.org.uk/page.aspx?pid=731
For the Methodist Church, there is a useful introductory guidance notice for new trustees www.methodist.org.uk/static/rm/newtoproperty-briefintro.pdf
and an explanation of Ecclesiastical Exemption here www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/technical-and-conservation/ecclesiastical-exemption
and there is information about the Listed Building Advisory Committee here www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/technical-and-conservation/listed-buildings-advisory-committee
The system of control adopted by the Methodist Church is called Property Consents. Overall guidance can be found here: www.methodist.org.uk/static/rm/submissionofschemescpcpub1.pdf
All applications for Consent are dealt with centrally. The Property Consent website provides the means for Managing Trustees to apply for consent for property projects, create new projects and progress projects through the website from church to circuit to district: www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/online-property-consent-management
Specific guidance on the submission of schemes to the Connexional Property Office can be found here www.methodist.org.uk/static/propertyconsents/pubs-propertyconsents-231009.pdf
Information and guidance on appointment of Quinnquennial Inspectors (Leaflet T16) can be found here and guidance on the carrying out of Quinnquennial Inspections (Leaflet T17) can be found here www.methodist.org.uk/ministers-and-office-holders/property/technical-and-conservation/technical-information-leaflets
In the United Reformed Church, the mechanism is called the United Reformed Church Procedure and to find out more go to www.urc.org.uk/resources/plato-property-handbook.html and then to http://www.urc.org.uk/images/s661%20v2011.pdf
United Reformed Churches are required to undertake Quinnquennial Inspections every five years. If the latest QI reveals that works need to be done, contact your Regional Synod Property Officer.
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 http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/220864/The_Baptist_Union/Resource_Library/Free_Resources_and/BUC_Guidelines/BUC_Guidelines.aspx
The leaflets specific to listed churches buildings are:-
LB1 Introducing the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee
LB2 Applying to the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee
LB3 Professional Advisors and Applications to the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee
LB4 Listed Buildings application form
LB5 The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme
LB6 Looking after your Church Buildings
LB7 Building Materials and External Fittings in Listed Buildings
LB8 Furnishings in Listed Churches
LB9 Photographic Recording
Information on the Five Year Inspection Reports can be found here http://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/368769/BUC_Guideline_Leaflet.aspx