Places of Worship

Planning permission

The New Synagogue, Egerton Road © Boris Baggs/English HeritageNo place of worship has any exemption from planning permission. However, the application of such controls has been uneven across the country, particularly when a change of appearance is involved as a result of conservation repairs e.g. the rendering and lime washing of a tower.

The consequences of the Church of England’s Pastoral Measure (Amendment Measure) due to come into force in 2007 have yet to be assessed; guidance is being prepared by the their Church Buildings Division. This legislation will enable a parish church to be licensed for a non-worship use and remain under the faculty jurisdiction if the ‘majority of the building remains in use for worship’. Planning permission will certainly be required for a change of use e.g. conversion of a part of the nave to restaurant use, but permission is unlikely to be required from the local authority for works entirely within an exempt building. The local authority will of course have the opportunity to comment on such proposals to listed churches within the faculty process.

Scheduled Monument Consent and archaeology

An example of a ruined monument on Church landAs ‘ecclesiastical buildings in ecclesiastical use’ cannot be scheduled, no scheduled monument consent is required for places of worship in use. However, the land around a place of worship can be scheduled and individual items within its curtilage, such as churchyard crosses, detached bell towers or outdoor baptismal tanks can also be scheduled as they are not buildings ‘in use for worship’.

The land beneath a place of worship can also be scheduled when a separate monument to the place of worship, such as a Roman villa, can be clearly identified, but this is rare. The future designation of historic assets under the Heritage Protection Review will remove such anomalies.

The normal archaeological requirements of PPG 16 apply to any planning permission affecting places of worship, most especially extensions to existing buildings. The exempt denominations have all agreed to take archaeological issues into account in their own control systems but in practice, advise that where planning permission is needed, a congregation gains it before approval is sought under denominational procedures.

The Association of Diocesan and Cathedral Archaeologists have produced a guideline Archaeological requirements for works on churches and churchyards, available on their website

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