Section C. Church buildings
C1. Faculty jurisdiction
How to apply to make changes to your church building
Alterations to consecrated buildings and land, and to the furnishings of churches, generally require the authority of a faculty granted by the Chancellor of the Diocese in the Consistory Court. This requirement is designed to preserve the integrity of church buildings, many of which have significant heritage value and are listed accordingly, and to ensure conformity with the doctrine and practice of the Church of England.
By virtue of what is known as the ecclesiastical exemption alterations thus authorised are exempted from the requirements of the secular legislation relating to listed buildings and scheduled monuments. However, where planning permission would be required in the secular sphere (for example, because the exterior appearance of a building is affected), it is still required in the case of buildings subject to the faculty jurisdiction.
Certain minor works are excepted from the need to obtain a faculty by virtue of Schedule 1 to the current Faculty Jurisdiction Rules (as to which, see below). Table 1 List A sets out matters which may be undertaken without the need for consultation and Table 2 List B those which may be undertaken subject to consultation. In both cases there are specified conditions, and Rule 3.5 sets out matters which can never be undertaken without a faculty (for example, works affecting a listed building that would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest) even if they otherwise qualify under List A or List B.
In addition, temporary re-ordering on a minor scale may be permitted by the Archdeacon. The installation of certain memorials can be authorised by incumbents exercising powers delegated by the Chancellor, but if the proposal falls outside the parameters of the delegated powers a faculty petition will be required.
The law and procedures of the Consistory Court are complex. They are set out principally in the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 2011 and the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015; useful advice as to costs is to be found in the Guidance for the Award of Costs issued by the Ecclesiastical Judges Association in January 2011. The Registry will provide guidance on procedure as a petition proceeds, but petitioners should be prepared to provide not only a full description of the intended works (accompanied by appropriate plans, drawings, photographs and specifications), but also statements of significance and need. The petition, once prepared, will also need to be publicised. Petitions are normally made by the incumbent and churchwardens supported by a resolution of the Parochial Church Council.
Consultation is one of the hallmarks of the faculty jurisdiction, and intending petitioners should begin in most cases by obtaining the advice of the Secretary of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (“DAC”) at the Old Palace, Deansway, Worcester WR1 2JE (01905-732809; firstname.lastname@example.org). The Registry is also pleased to advise at any stage. A list of possible consultees follows this note.
Petitions for reservation of grave spaces and for exhumation, exceptionally, do not require the advice of the DAC and petitioners in these cases should initially approach the Registry. It is wise also to contact the Registry at an early stage in cases involving the sale of chattels.
In cases of urgency the Chancellor may be willing to curtail the consultation process, as set out in his “Urgent Works: a Note on Procedure”, which is available on this website; and in extreme cases (such as the imminent collapse of an ecclesiastical building or real danger to the public) he may even be prepared to authorise an interim faculty over the telephone.
All judgments of the Worcester Consistory Court since 1998, together with some earlier judgments, are being made available on this website. Many are specific to the issues they address but some are of wider significance and consider issues of principle applicable to other petitions.
Victoria Bryant (Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service Manager) is the archaeological advisor to Worcester Diocesan Advisory Committee. If you are intending to apply for faculty and your proposals involve changes to the fabric of the church or ground works in the graveyard please contact her at VBryant@worcestershire.gov.uk. Advice provided at the design stage and before submission of faculty could save time and money.