Church Buildings and Churchyards
This webpage sets out the framework of the faculty permission system for works to church buildings and churchyards and explains how to obtain permission in the Diocese of St Albans.
This page covers:
- A brief introduction to Faculty Jurisdiction
- Planning your project
- Faculty and List B applications – what is needed?
- Using the DAC part of the diocesan online portal
- Accessing DAC advice
Brief Introduction to Faculty Jurisdiction
For more detail and guidance, see the Church Building’s Council Guidance on managing church buildings.
The faculty jurisdiction covers every parish church including its fittings and furnishings, and most other licensed places of worship, their churchyards (including detached churchyards) or curtilage land, any freestanding structures within the churchyard and the boundary walls, fences or hedges.
Why the faculty jurisdiction?
The faculty system is the ancient Church of England system providing a framework for giving permission for works to churches and in churchyards. As secular controls have developed for nationally-listed buildings of historic significance, the faculty system has also developed so that it can function as an equivalent to listed building controls. This means that works and changes to churches are dealt with in a system that recognises the primary function of churches as local centres of worship and mission. The faculty system applies to both listed and unlisted churches. The involvement of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) allows parishes to have expert advice free of charge as proposals are being developed and planned.
There are a number of categories of work which do not need a faculty:
- Minor Matters – see national List A (no permission needed) and List B (permission needed from the Archdeacon following light-touch DAC consultation). In this diocese there are some Minor Matters Additional Matters within List A or List B.
- Temporary Reordering – a licence from the archdeacon gives permission to experiment with reversible changes to layout and furniture
- Churchyard Memorials – while the Chancellor has jurisdiction over churchyards, parish priests have delegated power to authorise memorial stones conforming to the diocesan Churchyard Regulations.
- Note: Private applications for exhumation or reservation of a grave space/ashes plot require a faculty, but do not need Stage 1 advice from the DAC.
How does the system work?
Applying for a faculty is a 2-stage process:
- Stage 1 – The applicant provides details of the proposed works so that the DAC can give advice. This may simply be to support the proposals, or the DAC may suggest other options or amendments, or say that consultation is needed with other bodies.
- Stage 2 – Once the DAC has advised formally on the works, the applicant completes the faculty petition form and public notice. After the public notice period has been completed, the Diocesan Registrar notifies the Chancellor, the senior legal officer of the Diocese, that the application is ready for consideration. The Chancellor considers the application and, if all is in order, grants the faculty subject to any conditions.
Planning your project
Larger projects can be complex and they can seem very daunting. We also have more detailed advice about planning a project.
Early ideas site visit – the DAC is able to offer site visits on request, allowing a small group of DAC members to discuss your ideas with you and other PCC representatives on site. This may include looking at options to meet your needs, suggesting other churches that have done something similar, and further steps it will be helpful for you to take as you develop your ideas.
Statements of Significance and Needs – these are required documents for any proposals involving making a change to a listed church and are useful in other cases where you are planning a major change to your church building. The Statement of Significance documents what is important and valued about your church, its setting and contents. The Statement of Needs sets out what you are seeking to achieve, the options you have considered and the proposals you are developing in a way that seeks to keep, protect and enhance all the important and valued elements of the church. The DAC’s guidance on Statements of Significance and Needs is available on our DAC Advice Leaflets page.
Professional advice – a suitably qualified and experienced architect/surveyor, who understands the parish’s needs and the significance of the building, should be employed by the PCC once a brief has emerged. More information can be found can be found on our Quinquennial Inspector page, as well as the advice leaflet about Professional Advisers.
External consultations – For significant changes to a listed church and for certain other matters (.g. repairs to a historic artefact) you will need to consult specified external bodies such as Historic England, the local planning authority and national Amenity Societies with a remit for specific periods of architecture. You’ll need to carry out these consultations as part of Stage 1 of the faculty process, before the DAC issues its formal advice. This is so that the applicant and the DAC can take into account the responses and comments from the consultees.
Local consultation – As well as these formal consultations, it’s important to ensure that your plans have the backing – as far as possible – of the PCC, the congregation and other users of the church as well as the wider community. This will assist with fundraising and making the case for grant applications, as well as giving a smoother ride through the faculty process which includes public notice.
Fundraising and grants – There is lots of information on the repairs, maintenance and project funding pages of the diocesan website. Please contact David Bevan, our Historic Church Buildings Support Officer, for advice and help with specific projects.
Faculty and List B applications – what is needed?
Please note that you must provide adequate explanation and documentation so that all those involved, within the PCC and wider parish as well as the DAC, the Registry and the Chancellor, plus any external consultees, can understand exactly what you are proposing to do based only on the documentation you have provided. The type of documentation you need to provide will depend on the nature of the works or project.
For repairs, a specification and schedule of works are needed
the DAC needs to see what work is being done (scope/extent) and how (materials/methods/health and safety and other provisions). The Quinquennial Inspection report (QI report) identifies where repairs are needed but does not cover these details. The PCC also needs to know this information, both to ensure the quotations it obtains are on a comparable basis to ensure best value and to ensure that the work will be done safely and in the right way by a qualified and insured contractor. Normally the church’s quinquennial inspector or another architect or surveyor should be engaged to specify the works, deal with tenders for larger projects, ensure the appropriate form of contract is used, oversee the works on site and sign them off when completed. See the DAC advice leaflet on Professional Advisers for more information.
For specialist works such as heating, lighting and organ repairs, it may be appropriate to obtain quotations with full proposal details from specialist contractors. Specialists should always have any relevant professional accreditation (where applicable, this must be for non-domestic/commercial work rather than only for domestic/householder work) and minimum £10m public liability insurance cover, as well as an appropriate level of professional indemnity cover.
Plans, photos and description
In all cases, it is important to provide before-and-after photos, location plans and a description of the works so that everyone is clear what is involved.
For new works including new facilities, extensions, works of art, and for details of repairs, drainage works, etc., drawings will be needed as well as a specification and schedule of works.
Statements of Significance and Needs
As described in Planning your Project, you will need to provide Statements of Significance and needs for any project involving a change to a listed church. These documents are not needed for repair projects.
Using the DAC section of the Diocesan Online Portal
Please use the online portal to make your application for a faculty, a List B matter or where you are not sure what permission may be needed. Everything relating to your application will be available in one place and the User Guide and portal pages will take you through the process stage by stage. A User Guide User Guide is available to take you through using the DAC section of the Portal. When you reach Stage 2 and need to fill in the formal application form (faculty petition form) you may want to refer to the Checklist, which is available under the list of Forms for the case on the Portal at the relevant stage, to make sure you have all the information you need at hand.
Accessing DAC Advice
Details of the DAC Team in the Diocesan Office are available on the Who’s Who? page.
The DAC is a statutory advisory body within the diocese, comprising mainly members appointed because of their particular expertise. All DAC members give their time and experience to the work of the DAC as volunteers.
- You’ll have seen that there is a lot of information and advice on the Church Buildings pages of the diocesan website. In particular, there are over 40 DAC Advice Leaflets on a wide range of subjects.
- Do contact the DAC Team by email or phone with any questions or issues about the process or more generally about the care and development of your church building or the churchyard.
- In addition, we are happy to arrange a Teams/Zoom call with you to talk through a project e.g. when you are putting together Statements of Significance and Needs, when you have uploaded proposals ready for the DAC to consider, or even later in the project if the unexpected arises while the work is on site. We can also offer support in using the online portal.
- Site visits are a useful way to think through ideas about a possible project in context with experienced DAC members. The DAC Team is happy to arrange site visits and the good news is that they are free!