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Ecclesiastical exemption

The position in the planning system of some places of worship is different from that of secular buildings. Until 1994 all churches and chapels in England and Wales were exempt from the normal controls relating to listed buildings and conservation areas. The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Order 1994, however, restricted this ‘ecclesiastical exemption’, to churches and chapels of six denominations operating an acceptable internal system of control, as long as the building remains in use as a place of worship.

Exempt denominations

  • Church of England
  • Church in Wales
  • Methodist Church
  • Roman Catholic Church
  • United Reformed Church
  • Baptist churches where the Baptist Union of GB acts in the capacity of trustee

Alterations to places of worship belonging to these denominations fall outside the system of secular listed building control although they are still subject to planning controls. Vicarages and other ministers’ residences are not exempt. Places of worship belonging to other denominations follow normal planning and listed buildings rules.

The Church of England’s procedures are set out in the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2000. For Anglican churches, it is necessary to apply for a faculty for any repairs and alterations. Faculties are determined by the Chancellor of the Diocese after consultation with English Heritage, the local authority, the Diocesan Advisory Committee and the relevant national amenity societies in the case of listed churches.

A similar process of control exists for places of worship belonging to the other exempt denominations. If you belong to an exempt denomination you should seek advice from those organisations about the rules and procedures that apply.

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