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Church Property

Church Commissioners written question – answered on 22nd July 2002.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what role (a) English Heritage and (b) the chancellors of each diocese have in approving schemes of work on church property; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

In general, work of substance may not be carried out to a parish church or certain other Church of England places of worship without a "faculty" or permission from the Chancellor of the ecclesiastical court of the diocese or, in some cases involving less significant changes, from the archdeacon. (Separate controls apply to cathedrals.) The faculty system is a legal system of controls which has been strengthened by recent legislation; it predates secular listed building controls, is broader in scope and also applies to unlisted buildings. Because it satisfied Government requirements for "ecclesiastical exemption", Church of England churches are not in general subject to listed building control, though they are not exempt from the need for planning permission where that applies.

It is for the court alone to decide whether to grant the faculty or permission, but with limited exceptions the Chancellor or archdeacon must seek the advice of the Diocesan Advisory Committee before doing so. Three members of that committee are appointed in consultation with English Heritage, with the National Amenity Societies and with Local Government associations.

There is also statutory provision in the faculty jurisdiction system for consultation with a range of bodies, including English Heritage, in appropriate cases. Parishes contemplating changes to listed churches are in any case encouraged to seek its informal advice and that of the Amenity Societies as early as possible. English Heritage will need to approve any works for which it is providing grant aid, and must also be consulted where it has in the past made a grant to a particular church.

Church property not used for worship is subject to normal secular controls.

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