When a Church Building Closes

Churches, like other buildings, can outlive their original purpose. Those no longer required by the Church of England for regular public worship may be closed by a scheme under the provisions of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011. The Measure also sets out procedures for settling the future of these buildings. The main emphasis is on finding suitable alternative uses for listed buildings or those within conservation areas which are often important parts of our national heritage.

Each diocese is responsible for seeking new uses for closed church buildings in its area. This work is carried out by a Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Committee, or a sub-committee thereof, which usually appoints agents to market these buildings.

If a suitable use and purchaser / lessee has been identified, the Commissioners prepare a draft scheme for public consultation. The prospective user will also have to apply for listed building consent and planning consent where applicable. The Commissioners will obtain independent advice from a Statutory Advisory Committee of the Church Buildings Council on any conversion plans. If there are representations against the proposal, the CBUDC will adjudicate. Any transfer of the property will be subject to various covenants, giving the Church a residual interest in what happens to the building.

The final decision about the future of closed church buildings rests with the Church Commissioners. They are helped by the advice of the Statutory Advisory Committee of the Church Buildings Council. Before a proposal for a new use, demolition or preservation can take effect the Commissioners (through their Closed Churches Division) must prepare and publish a draft scheme and consider any representations.

The Church Commissioners distribute the proceeds of the sale of closed churches and sites. At least two-thirds of the proceeds are returned to dioceses for the support of the living Church and are used for purposes such as clergy stipends and housing and new church buildings - a sum of approximately £26 million since 1969. A one-third share towards the Church's share of financing the Churches Conservation Trust or helps with the maintenance of churches pending a decision on their future is available.


If you have a general enquiry or comments about these web pages please contact the Closed Churches Division