How we manage our buildings

Our churches exist to help us worship God, and to show His love to everyone in England.

They are also often historic, important places, and most of them are listed buildings. Because of this there are laws that govern how we manage and care for our buildings.

We can help you understand the rules and get the right permissions to support your worship and mission.

Shelf of bound books, General Synod papers 2007

The Ecclesiastical Exemption

The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) England Order 2010 gives us an exemption from:

  • Listed building consent: including separately listed structures within the curtilage (e.g. churchyard walls, railings and monuments)
  • Conservation area consent
  • Building preservation notices
  • Compulsory acquisition of buildings in need of repair
  • Urgent works notices

It recognises that church buildings are places of worship. And it allows us to balance mission, worship, and wider community use, with care and conservation.

We only have the exemption on the condition that we maintain our own, equivalent, heritage protection system.

For churches this is the Faculty System, and for cathedrals it is the Care of Cathedrals Measure.

We are not exempt from:

  • Planning permission
  • Dangerous structure notices
  • Advertising consent
  • Buildings regulations
  • Other secular legislation (e.g. Health & safety)

Find out how the exemption operates

The Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2018

A faculty gives you permission to do works to one of our buildings.

We operate the Rules ourselves. They allow us to give special attention to the role of the church as a centre of worship and mission.

But some works don’t require a faculty.

List A
List B

The Diocesan Advisory Committee

Your Diocesan Advisory Committee is the first place to ask for advice about works to your church building.

The secretary will be able to advise you:

  • If you need permission for the works you want to do
  • How to get it

Contact your diocese for advice

The faculty process

The basic steps to getting your faculty are quite simple.

But we understand that, taken together, they can seem a big burden. So we’ve drawn up a flowchart to help you on your way.

Step one: Agree what you want to do
Step two: Develop your idea
Step three: Identify professionals to work with
Step four: Find out what permissions you need
Step five: Take advice from your DAC and others
Step six: Consider and take account of that advice
Step seven: Ask your DAC for its final advice
Step eight: Display the public notice
Step nine: Apply to the chancellor for a faculty

New Faculty Rules 2020

New faculty rules formalised by the Rules Committee were submitted and passed by General Synod in July 2019. These new rules see a variation in the number of List A and B items, as well as a slight change to how a Faculty case is processed. 

We have updated our flowchart below to show the new faculty process which are currently being reviewed by both Houses of Parliament. 

A more detailed outline is available here

Step one: Agree what you want to do
Step two: Develop your idea (for major projects)
Step three: Identify professionals to work with
Step four: Find out what permissions you need
Step five: Take advice from your DAC and others
Step six: Consultation with other
Step seven: Listen to local views
Step eight: Consider and take account of that advice
Step nine: Ask your DAC for its final advice
Step ten: Display the public notice
Step eleven: Apply to the chancellor for a faculty

How will your chancellor make their decision?

If your project causes the loss of historic parts of a listed church, then your chancellor will use a set of questions to decide whether to grant you a faculty or not.

They are called the Duffield questions. They help your chancellor see:

  • The impact your plans will have on the building
  • The benefits to the mission and worship of your church

If the benefits to your mission are more than the harm you will cause to the historic parts of the building, then the chancellor will usually grant you a faculty.

The Duffield questions are:

  1. Would the proposals, if implemented, result in harm to the significance of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest?
  2. If the answer to question 1 is “no”, the ordinary presumption in faculty proceedings “in favour of things as they stand” is applicable, and can be rebutted more or less readily, depending on the particular nature of the proposals.
  3. If the answer to question 1 is “yes”, how serious would the harm be?
  4. How clear and convincing is the justification for carrying out the proposals?
  5.  Bearing in mind that there is a strong presumption against proposals which will adversely affect the special character of a listed building, will any resulting public benefit (including matters such as liturgical freedom, pastoral well-being, opportunities for mission, and putting the church to viable uses that are consistent with its role as a place of worship and mission) outweigh the harm?

In answering question 5, the more serious the harm, the greater the level of benefit needed before the proposals should be permitted. This will particularly be the case if the harm is to a building which is listed Grade l or II*, where serious harm should only exceptionally be allowed.

The Court of Arches has also made four observations on the Duffield Questions which assists in understanding how the questions are used. These observations are:

  • Question 1 cannot be answered without prior consideration of what is the special architectural and/or historic interest of the listed church. That is why each of those matters was specifically addressed in Duffield paras 57-58, the court having already found in para 52(i) that “the chancellor fell into a material error in failing to identify what was the special character and historic interest of the church as a whole (including the appearance of the chancel) and then to consider whether there would be an overall adverse effect by reason of the proposed change”.
  • In answering questions 1 and 3, the particular grading of the listed church is highly relevant, whether or not serious harm will be occasioned. That is why in Duffield para 56 the court’s analysis of the effect on the character of the listed building referred to “the starting point...that this is a grade I listed building”.
  • In answering question 4, what matters are the elements which comprise the justification, including justification falling short of need or necessity (see Duffield paras 85-86). That is why the document setting out the justification for the proposals is now described in rule 3.3(1)(b) of the FJR 2013 as a document “commonly known as a “statement of needs”” (italics added), in recognition that it is not confined to needs strictly so-called.
  • Questions 1, 3 and 5 are directed at the effect of the works on the character of the listed building, rather than the effects of alteration, removal or disposal on a particular article.

For more information on these questions please contact us 

The two judgements on which this guidance is based are St Alkmund Duffield [2013] Fam 158 and St John the Baptist Penshurst [2015] Court of Arches (Rochester)

Remember:

The more serious the harm, the greater the benefits need to be.

This is especially true for grade I and II* listed churches.

Secular controls

The Ecclesiastical Exemption exempts you from listed building consent. But there are other planning and legal controls that you might need to apply for.

Scheduled monument consent
Planning permission
Buildings regulations
Tree preservation orders
Sites of special scientific interest
Bat licences

The National Amenity Societies

You may need to consult national amenity societies if your project involves any form of demolition to your listed church. This includes:

  • Making new openings in the walls
  • Removing historic fixtures and fittings

You should consult them when you have:

They will want to see how many changes you are planning to the building and how strong your need is to make those changes.

It will be easier to work with them if you think of your early plans as drafts and not as complete.

The relevant national amenity societies are:

Other places of worship subject to faculty

It is possible for some buildings used for Anglican worship to opt into the faculty jurisdiction process.

The “list of places of worship” is set out in paragraphs 38-44 of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure 2018.

It was previously known as the Care of Places of Worship Measure 1999.

They include:

  • Buildings used for worship according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England
  • A chapel which forms part of an Episcopal house of residence
  • A chapel or other place of worship owned, leased by, or held in trust for a religious community
  • A building which is part of a university, college, school, hospital, Inn of Court, almshouse or other public or charitable institution, and is used for Anglican worship
  • A building used for worship, which is subject to a sharing agreement made on behalf of the Church of England in pursuance of the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969

Want more help?

Is your church listed?

Search the Church Heritage Record

Apply for faculty

Access the Online Faculty System