28 July 2005
Church welcomes Government support for existing controls.
The Church of England and the Churches Main Committee have welcomed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s support for ‘ecclesiastical exemption’ from listed building control. The latest proposals from DCMS, issued today, replace the suggestion of a ‘High Level Management Agreement with English Heritage’ in the Department’s February 2004 consultation paper with proposals for purely voluntary ‘Heritage Partnership Agreements’.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, commented: ‘We are delighted to see that the Department has recognised the real benefits of the Church’s own comprehensive arrangements for control over works to its buildings. Exciting work is in progress to pilot arrangements for partnership agreements that can build on the comprehensive system that already exists. The Church is very conscious of its responsibilities for so much of the Nation’s priceless heritage, and appreciates the partnerships of other bodies in ensuring that the controls work to the benefit of the historic environment as well as the Church’s worship and mission.’
The Bishop of Southwell, the Rt Revd George Cassidy, Chairman of the Churches Main Committee (representing the six denominations which benefit from the ‘ecclesiastical exemption’), said: ‘ the denominations which operate their own systems of control over their listed buildings are all confident that the hard work they have put in to develop these systems has been acknowledged. While all the denominations are keen to streamline their procedures so far as possible, it is very good news that the Government has accepted the value of the arrangements built up since 1994.’
A statement by Culture Minister David Lammy today (July 28) followed a consultation issued in February 2004 and subsequent discussion. It accepts that those denominations that currently benefit from the ‘ecclesiastical exemption’ from listed building control should retain it. Individual churches or cathedrals (or groups of churches) will be encouraged to enter into ‘Heritage Partnership Agreements’ together with the local authority, English Heritage, and other appropriate partners to establish a framework for deciding which works need consent and to streamline the process of management. These will be purely voluntary. Initial discussions are taking place with two cathedrals and with two dioceses to pilot the concept: similar discussions are taking place with the Roman Catholic diocese of Arundel and Brighton and with the Methodist Church.
The February 2004 paper had proposed that the denominations enter into a ‘High Level Management Agreement with English Heritage’ to monitor the operation of the exemption. This option has been substantially modified and replaced by the proposals for voluntary ‘Heritage Partnership Agreements’.
The current announcement links the operation of controls of ecclesiastical sites to the wider Heritage Protection Review being carried out by DCMS, which proposes to move towards a single system of designating historically important sites to replace listing and scheduling of ancient monuments, and a single unified consent to replace listed building control and scheduled monument control. A White Paper is expected in the spring of 2006, to be followed by legislation in 2007/8.
The denominations operating their own systems of control over listed buildings are the Church of England, Church in Wales, Roman Catholic Church, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, and the Baptist Union of Great Britain. The Church in Wales is not affected by today’s announcement: a separate review of the operation of the system in Wales has recently been carried out for CADW by Peter Howell.
The full text of the DCMS statement is available.