Places of Worship

The damaged exterior of Bethedsa Methodist Church, Stoke-On-Trent © Boris Baggs/English HeritageLocal authority consultation

The 1994 Code of Practice requires an exempt denomination to establish a procedure analogous to the listed building consent process. It includes the need to consult the local planning authority (as well as English Heritage and the national amenity societies) during their decision making process when the proposal is for ‘works for the demolition of a listed ecclesiastical building or its alteration or extension in any manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest; works for the demolition of an unlisted ecclesiastical building in a conservation area’.

Sometimes the applicant or a denominational adviser (such as the Methodist Church Conservation team) will approach consultees, but any advice subsequently received has to be considered by the decision maker.

Local authority representation in denominational systems

Silhouettes of men against a stained glass window at the New Synagogue, Egerton Road © Boris Baggs/English HeritageIn setting up their procedures to conform with the Code of Practice, the exempt denominations have been encouraged to seek nominees from local authorities to sit on their respective committees. This can prove problematic when the denomination’s administrative area e.g. a diocese, includes many local authorities. However, as such representation is not intended to be a substitute for the formal consultation system, the nominee is there as a person with a working knowledge of local authority interests and concerns. It helps, of course, if they also have a particular personal expertise relevant to the care of places of worship. A county council conservation officer is often approached, but there is no reason why a councillor or Heritage Champion should not fulfil this role.

Appeals and enforcement

The interior of the Crypt chapel of St Mary Magdelene, Paddington, London © Boris Baggs/English HeritageThe different legal circumstances of the denominations means that some of the committees are advisory (a Church of England DAC advises the Diocesan Chancellor, the national Methodist Listed Buildings Advisory Committee advises the Property Secretary) whilst others have devolved powers (the Roman Catholic Historic Buildings Committees). Therefore, appeals against the decision of the normal decision maker are made to different entities. The procedures for each denomination should be checked for the precise details.

Similarly, enforcement action is dependant on the denominational structures. Both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have formal procedures to stop work and to impose restoration or reinstatement orders when there has been a breach of procedure. The other denominations can invoke similar powers, but due to their federal nature, the fastest action would result from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport lifting the exemption to enable listed building or conservation area powers to be used by the local authority or English Heritage on behalf of the Secretary of State. To date, such action has not been required.

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