Parliament has approved changes to the faculty rules, which govern the process by which permission is given to make changes to church buildings and their contents and to carry out certain work in churchyards. The main aim is to simplify procedures and reduce the administrative burdens on parishes. The full text of the new rules appears in a lengthy statutory instrument 'The Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015', copies of which may be found here.
The new rules will come into force on 1st January 2016, at which point the guidance material on faculty matters on the website will be revised. This interim information describes the changes briefly and indicates how application procedures will change. Parishes planning to carry out relatively minor or routine works where there is no immediate urgency may wish to see whether they might postpone their application until the New Year when the simpler procedures come into operation.
Faculty rules have the force of law. Parish officers should take care to understand how they apply to any works they are planning. If in doubt, they should seek advice from the DAC Secretary, Wendy Harris (details can be found below), who will consult the Diocesan Registry if necessary.
This information has been circulated to architects and surveyors on the DAC's list of those approved to carry out quinquennial inspections in the diocese of Guildford.
The main changes
At present, a two-tier arrangement is in place. The Chancellor of each diocese has issued a list of minor works (the so-called de minimis list) that may either be undertaken by parishes without seeking any permissions or may be authorised by the archdeacon, or after consultation with the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC). Permission to carry out any other works must be sought by applying for a faculty.
In future, there will be a three-tier arrangement:
- There is a new single national list of minor work that may be carried out without seeking any permissions from the diocese. This information can found in List A (below). It is largely concerned with the routine maintenance and repair not affecting the fabric of the church or sensitive equipment; the introduction or removal of items not of particular liturgical or conservation significance; and routine maintenance and tidying work in churchyards. The list indicates where the permission is subject to certain conditions, e.g. the need to notify the church's insurers where external scaffolding is erected.
- There is a further list, List B (below), specifying more substantial works that may be carried out without a faculty if the archdeacon has given written approval. These include, e.g. routine maintenance or repair of historic fabric arising from a quinquennial inspection; exterior or interior decoration; replacement of boilers; installation of audio equipment; introduction, repair or replacement of various church fittings; introduction of benches in churchyards and repair of churchyard walls.
- All other works will continue to require full faculty permission.
In addition, in respect of work covered by List B, the legislation envisages that the archdeacon will normally seek the advice of the DAC and may impose particular conditions on the permission (rule 3.3). Moreover (rule 3.5), certain categories of work are excluded from the freedoms afforded by Lists A and B. They include any matters involving alteration to or extension of a listed building to an extent likely to affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest; or likely to affect the archaeological significance of a building; or involving exhumation; or involving the sale of articles of heritage interest; and various other exclusions.
The new List A clarifies and expands the categories of minor work that may be carried out without any diocesan permissions under the existing Guildford de minimis list, e.g. in respect of the disposal of certain items of furniture.
The new List B should result in a significant reduction in the number of full faculty applications that will need to made in future, e.g. by removing the need to apply in respect of routine repairs to buildings arising from quinquennial inspections. The List B process will be less onerous for parishes, with simpler paperwork, no requirement for public notice and no extra time needed for the Registry and Chancellor to handle the application. The standard of care taken by archdeacons and DAC in considering applications will not, however, be reduced. Guidance on how the new process will work is given immediately below.
The new list process in brief
- Parishes seeking permission from the Archdeacon to carry out List B works should submit an application to the DAC Secretary;
- There will be no requirement for public notices describing the proposed work to be displayed in churches but the application will need to include a statement that the proposals have the support of the minister and churchwardens (and PCC?). Applications may be submitted during an interregnum by or on behalf of the churchwardens (and PCC?) but the Archdeacon will need to be satisfied that the proposed works are not such that the consent of the new minister should also be obtained;
- There is no set format for the applications and in practice the paperwork is likely to resemble that often submitted to the DAC now in respect of intended faculty applications before the faculty application itself is put together. The paperwork will be expected to exhibit the same high standards of clarity, detail and rigour as with faculty applications at present (see further below).
- The Archdeacon will normally seek the advice of the DAC on applications;
- If the Archdeacon agrees that the proposed work may be carried out without a faculty, a letter will be issued to the parish which will need to be kept in the church Log Book, (together with a PCC resolution supporting the proposals). Copies will go to the DAC Secretary and the Registry.
Good paperwork is essential if applications are to be handles swiftly and to-ing and fro-ing between parish and DAC or Archdeacon avoided. The aim should be to provide material that will give a clear and detailed indication of what work is planned to readers who know how churches and churchyards function in general but may not be familiar with the particular church in question. The application should include:
- A clear summary statement of what work is planned and why;
- A reminder that the church is a Listed Building if that is the case;
- Any relevant plans or designs, normally including a ground plan of the church or churchyard;
- Any relevant photographs, with clear annotations (these are often essential in aiding understanding);
- A reference book to a quinquennial inspection report or other inspection if relevant;
- Any other relevant material supplied by architect, surveyor, craftsman or contractor;
- An indication of expected cost and details of how this funding will be achieved
- If necessary, a statement that the church's insurers have been or will be notified of the work.