What Happens When A Church Building Closes?

A proposal to close a church building or use it for an alternative purpose can be an emotive event and, naturally, people might have questions and comments about what is going to happen next. The answers below help to explain the process and how parishioners can get involved.

Our leaflet 'What Happens When a Church Building Closes', which explains the process in more detail, can be found in the resources bar.

Churches can sometimes outlive their original purpose. If a church is no longer needed for public worship, it may be closed by a Scheme made under the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011. The Measure also sets out the process for settling the building's future.

Who decides the future of a closed church building?

The diocesan mission and pastoral committee is responsible for seeking new uses for closed churches within a diocese.  Acting in partnership with the Church Commissioners it will  usually market the building during the use seeking period and then report the outcome to the Church Commissioners.  The Commissioners decide on the suitability of a use proposal and carry out further consultation. Most closed church buildings are found a suitable alternative use but if not then the Commissioners decide between the alternatives of preservation by the Churches Conservation Trust or demolition.

The most frequent new uses are listed below. Not every use on the list will be suitable for every closed church building but examples of suitable uses include:

  • Worship by other Christian Bodies
  • Civic, Cultural or Community Purposes (such as community centre; Lecture or concert hall; Conference hall and Exhibition Centre; Art gallery or heritage or tourist centre; County Record Office; Urban Study and architectural interpretation centre; Youth Work and Night Shelter; Library; Scout and Guide headquarters; Children's Nursery)
  • Monument (for preservation)
  • Residential
  • Storage (includes University book store; scenery and props; warehouse; diocesan furnishings store; and other types of storage)
  • Arts and Crafts, Music or Drama Centre (includes arts centre; theatre and restaurant; orchestral or operatic rehearsal hall; Fine Art auctions; craft workshop)
  • Light Industrial/Office/Retail (includes: pottery manufacture; studios and offices; antiques market; retail shops)
  • Private and school chapels
  • Educational purposes
  • Museums (includes: Natural History; Archaeological; Regimental)
  • Adjuncts to adjoining estates
  • Sports use (includes: Squash courts; gymnasium; indoor climbing centre).

The final decision on suitability in each case is made by the Commissioners. For more details about alternative uses, see the Statistics & Information page.

What can I do if I object to a use proposal?

The Commissioners carry out public consultation on draft Schemes settling the future of a closed church. As well as informing interested parties and carrying out local consultation, a copy of the draft Scheme is posted on the Commissioners' web site. Comments are invited in writing during the statutory notice period, either for or against the proposals. Current draft schemes can be viewed here.

What happens next?

The Church Buildings Uses and Disposals Committee (CBUDC) decide on a case by case basis whether to consider any representations in private on the paperwork or to hold a public hearing. If a public hearing is held then representors may request to speak to the Committee. To find out more, click here.

If there are no representations, or the CBUDC decide a Scheme should proceed, it can be made and brought into effect.