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Diocesan policies for managing church buildings

Preliminary Matters

Mr Paul Morris, registrar of the Diocese of London

Mr Kevin Rogers, Director of Parish Property Support details can be found on the staff pages.

  1. Some useful contacts:
  2. Before any works or alterations are carried out to a Church or its furnishings, or in the Churchyard or curtilage, or before anything is introduced into or removed from a Church, the law requires that it be authorised by a Faculty. The grant of a Faculty is a judicial process. Applications are considered by the Chancellor of the Diocese, who is the Judge of the Consistory Court.
  3. There are certain minor works which the Chancellor has said may be carried out without formal authority. These are specified in what is known as the “de minimis” list. Before carrying out any works thought to be de minimis consult the Archdeacon or the Diocesan Registry.
  4. The Chancellor makes decisions on the basis of the evidence before the Chancellor, although a Court Hearing is not normally necessary. In making a decision the Chancellor takes into account the advice of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (see below).
  5. Matters requiring a Faculty are first scrutinised by the Diocesan Advisory Committee (“DAC”). Once the DAC has issued its advice, a Petition for Faculty should be completed.
  6. The Registrar submits Petitions for decision by the Chancellor at the appropriate time. Full details of the procedure are set out in the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2000 made under the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991. A simplified version of the procedure is set out below. This will apply in most cases when a Parish applies for a Faculty.
  7. The necessary forms can be obtained from the DAC Secretary or the Registrar at the above addresses.

The Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches

  1. The first step is to seek the advice of the DAC, which is the advisory body on matters affecting places of worship in the Diocese. The Committee is required to give advice to the Chancellor, the Archdeacon and intending applicants in connection with Faculty applications.
  2. The Committee normally meets every six weeks. It is important to find out from the DAC Secretary the date of the next meeting because papers will need to be submitted by the closing date before that meeting. The DAC issues an informal guide to Parishes on the information which an application should contain. This can be obtained from the DAC Secretary.
  3. Full details of the proposed work, with a brief Statement indicating the need for the work to be carried out, together with plans, designs and specifications, usually with an estimate for the work, the comments of the Quinquennial Inspector, the name of the Architect employed (if it is not to be the Quinquennial Inspector) and the firm which will carry it out, together with photographs of the Church and any articles to be introduced or removed from the Church, should be sent to the DAC Secretary at the above address.

If the proposals involve a significant change to a listed building, the DAC should be provided with both a “Statement of Need” and a “Statement of Significance“. Information on these can be obtained from the Registry or the DAC Secretary. You are also advised to obtain the booklet “Making Changes to a Listed Church“, which is available from Church House, Great Smith Street, SW1P 3NZ (telephone 020 7898 1000).

It will also indicate (i) whether or not the Committee considers that the proposals will result in a material alteration to the appearance of the Church or affect its setting, and (ii) whether or not it is considered that the proposals will affect the archaeological interest of the Church. In this respect it may also recommend that the applicants should consult English Heritage, the local Planning Authority, the relevant national amenity society and/or the Council for the Care of Churches, before submitting a Petition.

  1. If the proposals concern an organ, bells, a clock, etc., the papers will be referred to the Committee’s Advisers on these matters by the DAC Secretary. They will report on the technical merits of the proposals.
  2. After the proposals have been considered by the Committee the plans and other documents will be returned to the applicants. The applicants will also receive the Committee’s certificate relating to the proposals, on which will be listed the plans and specifications recommended by the DAC. This will indicate whether the Committee has decided to recommend the proposals, or to raise no objection to them, or not to recommend them.

Note: A Petition may still be submitted to the Diocesan Registrar even if the DAC have decided not to recommend the proposal. It should be borne in mind, though, that the Chancellor places considerable weight on the advice of the DAC, although the Chancellor is not bound by it.

The Petition

  1. This is the formal application for a Faculty. The form, together with the Public Notice will be forwarded by the DAC Secretary or can be obtained from the Diocesan Registrar. The Petitioners are normally the Incumbent and Churchwardens of the parish and usually the PCC.

Note: If the Petition is for authority to execute a Licence for the use of either the Church or Church land by a third party, or if there is no Incumbent, advice should be sought from the Diocesan Registrar before completing the Petition as to who should be the Petitioners. In such cases the proposed third party Licensee should normally be a petitioning party together with the Incumbent, Churchwardens and PCC

  1. It is important that the form is completed accurately. In particular the Schedule of works and purposes on page 2 must set out clearly and comprehensively in words the works or purposes for which a Faculty is required. Please do not rely solely on such phrases as “see specification herewith” or “see plans herewith”. The Schedule must set out the works or purposes that are to be authorised by the Faculty. The Chancellor will require also a clear explanation of why the proposed works are needed. This should be contained within the “Statement of Need” sent to the DAC. The Schedule should also list all plans/drawings by numbered reference.

Note: If an application is for authority to replace an item, then it may be necessary to include a request for the disposal of the item replaced (i.e. organ, pews, etc.).

  1. The summary of the works in the Certificate from the DAC will often be a help in completing the Schedule, and the Registrar is always ready to give advice. It is important, of course, that the works or purposes set out in the Schedule are the same works or purposes that are referred to in the DAC Certificate. It is normally sensible to ensure that the wording on the Petition is the same as that on the DAC Certificate.

Public Notice

  1. This is a notice to the public that a Faculty has been applied for. The form of Public Notice is supplied with the Petition, together with directions for its display and an example of how it should be completed. It is completed and signed by the Petitioners and published at the Church. At the same time it is recommended that the plans are exhibited at the Church and the Public Notice is drawn to the attention of the congregation at each Sunday service during the period of Public Notice.
  2. The Schedule of works or purposes on the Public Notice form should refer to all the works or purposes set out in the Schedule to the Petition. If the Schedule refers to plans, then the Public Notice should contain an address at which the plans can be viewed during the Public Notice period. Here again the summary of the works in the Certificate from the DAC is likely to be a help. Petitioners should follow the wording of the Certificate wherever possible. The Registrar is available to advise Petitioners on the wording of the Public Notice if necessary. The Public Notice must be returned to the Registrar (see

Summary of Procedure on Application for a Faculty

    1. Have a resolution passed by the PCC approving the carrying out of the works.
    2. Obtain a Certificate from the DAC as described above.
    3. Obtain the necessary forms from either the DAC Secretary or the Registrar.
    4. After the DAC has issued its Certificate, the Public Notice is published. This Public Notice must be displayed for a continuous period of not less than twenty-eight days including at least one Sunday when the Church is used for worship. (Where there is no Sunday worship the Registrar should be consulted for advice). Anyone who wishes to object to the proposals has twenty-eight days from the time when the Public Notice was first displayed to lodge an Objection at the Diocesan Registry.
    5. The completed form of Petition must be sent to the Registrar while the Public Notice is being published together with the following:
      1. the DAC Certificate;
      2. a copy of the resolution of the PCC signed by the Chairman or the PCC Secretary;
      3. Statement of Needs and Statement of Significance (if applicable);
      4. a copy of the Public Notice (this should be a copy of the Public Notice which is being published);
      5. the designs, plans, specifications and/or estimates giving full particulars of the proposed works and a copy of planning permissions (if required). These should be the same documents as were submitted to the DAC and should bear the DAC’s stamp. These documents will normally be retained by the Registry;
      6. in the case of works which are likely to affect the organ, the electrical installation, or the security of the building against fire, vandalism, theft or other risks, a letter from the Insurance Office concerned confirming that the insurance cover for the Church will not be affected; and
      7. if the building has previously been the subject of a grant from English Heritage, or if a grant aid is being sought from English Heritage, copies of the correspondence with English Heritage;
      8. if the DAC has recommended contacting English Heritage or another body, details of the contact made, and any comments received from them, should be supplied.


    6. The Registrar will forward the papers to the Chancellor for a decision. The Chancellor has to check with the DAC that they do not wish to alter their Certificate. This may necessitate the matter being place before a further meeting of the DAC.
    7. After the Public Notice has been displayed for twenty-eight days the Public Notice or a copy should be sent to the Registrar with the certificate of publication duly completed. A Faculty cannot be issued until this has been done.
    8. If the Chancellor is satisfied that the matter may proceed, and if no Objections are received by the Registrar, the Faculty will be issued after the certificate of publication is received at the Registry, and after the period for objections has elapsed.

Special Cases

  1. If in the judgement of the Chancellor the works:
    1. involve alteration to or extension of a church which is a listed building to such an extent as is likely to affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest, or
    2. affect the archaeological importance of the church or archaeological remains existing within the church or its curtilage,the Chancellor is obliged to ensure that English Heritage, the local planning authority and any national amenity society (see below) considered to have an interest is made aware of the proposed works. Normally, these bodies will have already been contacted by the Petitioners, as recommended by the DAC Certificate. Unless there is correspondence in such a case showing that these bodies have been previously notified to the proposed works, the Chancellor may order the Registrar to serve notification of the lodging of the Petition upon those bodies. The Registrar is always ready to advise Petitioners whether this special provision is likely to apply.


Note: Early consultation with bodies such as English Heritage can help speed up the process. It is also important to ensure that members of the congregation are properly consulted in any case which is likely to be controversial, e.g. a major reordering scheme. The Archdeacon will be happy to advise on this.

  1. These notes are intended primarily for parishes. However, private individuals and corporate bodies are entitled to petition the Consistory Court. In such cases the Diocesan Registrar should always be consulted in advance.


  1. In the event of an emergency please send a specification of work to be done and/or a copy of any dangerous structure notice, if relevant, to the Registry who will then obtain the Chancellor’s immediate instructions.

Experimental Re-Ordering

  1. If it is wished to experiment with re-ordering a Church or part of it, the Archdeacon has authority to grant a Licence for temporary re-ordering. If it is decided to make this permanent a Faculty must be applied for within 15 months. Such a Licence may only be issued if the Church can easily be restored to its original layout.

Other bodies which might need to be consulted

  1. The Local Planning Authority

Planning permission (as distinct from listed building consent) may be needed for works affecting the exterior of the Church building, including the erection of noticeboards, or for change of use of part of the Church or for works in the Churchyard. In such cases enquiries should be made of the local planning authority. The planning permission, or a letter stating that planning permission is not necessary, should accompany the Petition.

National Amenity Societies

These are the Ancient Monuments Society, the Council for British Archaeology, the Georgian Group, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Victorian Society and the Twentieth Century Society.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

If the works or purposes affect or are likely to affect a grave or memorial maintained by the body, the Petitioners should seek its agreement to the proposals. If such agreement cannot be obtained, the Chancellor will require a special Citation to be served on the Commission by the Registrar giving it the right to enter an appearance in the Consistory Court.

The Council for the Care of Churches

Where the Chancellor is of the opinion that any Petition for a Faculty concerns or involves, or might concern or involve, an article or matter of historic or artistic interest, the Registrar will be directed to serve full details upon this body.

English Nature

If bats use any part of the church, and it is possible that the works or purposes might harm or disturb the bats or their roosts, the advice of English Nature should be obtained before a Faculty is applied for. The letter of advice should be submitted with the Petition.

Memorial Tablets

  1. A Faculty will not readily be granted for the erection of a memorial tablet in any Church within the Diocese until some time has elapsed after the date of death of the person to be commemorated. Memorials to recently deceased parishioners are only permitted in very exceptional circumstances.

The Chancellor will carefully consider the circumstances, including whether or not the person to be commemorated gave outstanding service to, or was a prominent benefactor of the Church in question.

  1. It is suggested that proposed inscriptions should be submitted to the DAC for recommendation or otherwise before a design is prepared in order to avoid unnecessary expense and delay.

Reservation of Grave Spaces

  1. Graves spaces may only be reserved by Faculty. In these cases it will not be necessary for the matter to be referred to the DAC. Application should be made to the Registrar direct, who will supply the special form of Petition that is required.

Burial of Cremated Remains

  1. A Faculty may be granted for setting aside part of a consecrated churchyard or the unconsecrated curtilage of a consecrated church as a ‘garden of remembrance’ for the burial of cremated remains. Plans for such a garden of remembrance must first be approved by the Diocesan Advisory Committee.

Demolition of Churches or parts of Churches

Disinterments and Reinterments

Church Extensions and Sale of Church Goods

  1. In all such cases application should be made in the first place to the Registrar, who will give instructions on the procedure to be followed.


  1. There are special Rules dealing with the introduction or removal of trees and Petitioners should contact the Registry for advice.

Secular use of a Church or part of a Church

  1. No Licence to Occupy any part of a church or any other form of agreement may be made with a third party without the authority of a Faculty, e.g. hiring the crypt for storage purposes. The Archdeacon should be consulted first.

Confirmatory Faculty

  1. When work has been done or agreement made without a Faculty or the Archdeacon’s written authorisation, a Parish must apply for a Confirmatory Faculty. A written explanation of the circumstances is required by the Chancellor. Full statutory fees are payable for a Confirmatory Faculty.

When work is done without a Faculty, and the Faculty would have been refused had an application been made, the Chancellor may order the work to be undone. All legal expenses and fees, and the costs of the work, are payable by those responsible for the illegal action.

Commonwealth War Graves

For the introduction of a sign at the or near the entrance(s) of a churchyard containing commonwealth war graves see this special Additional Matters Order 2018 (London No.1)


Additional Matters Order - Commonwealth War Graves 6 Novemeber 2018 (pdf)Download

The Diocesan Chancellor’s De Minimis List

The Chancellor has issued guidance to all Parochial Church Councils, Ministers and Churchwardens in the Diocese as to matters NOT requiring a Faculty. This list is available on the Minor Works page.

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