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Faculty Jurisdiction (Ecclesiastical Exemption)

by Michael Ford last modified 06 Dec, 2018 11:26 AM

Faculty jurisdiction is a system for ensuring all repairs and alterations to churches and churchyards are planned and carried out with proper consideration given to the historic fabric and architectural significance of the building, and to the archaeological impact on the churchyard.

Ecclesiastical Exemption and the Faculty Jurisdiction are part of national legislation which all Dioceses are required to abide by.  The "Exemption" means that Church of England churches are exempt from the need for local authority Listed Building Consent, although local authority planning permission still applies for external developments to the church or in the churchyard and is required in addition to faculty.  The "Exemption" is valued by the Church of England because Worship and Mission can be taken into account when faculty permission is sought for changes to the church, which the following quotation summarises

The task of Ecclesiastical Courts is:

"to ensure sacred spaces are protected, that parishioners are duly consulted and that the wider aesthetic interests of the public are considered, but remembering always that a church is a place of worship and mission, not a museum"

(1993 - Newson and Newson Report)

Churches would be more likely to encounter resistance to change under local authority Listed Building Consent.

However, as indicated, the Faculty Rules are in place to ensure churches and their contents are properly cared for and what is done to them is properly considered.  The Faculty Rules determine the nature of supporting detail required with faculty applications, which the DACs can then consider in order to offer their advice to the Diocesan Chancellor who is responsible for determining faculty petitions (ie whether to grant faculty permission or not).  The Chancellor is the judge of the Consistory Court and gives her directions concerning the faculty petition, having heard from the Petitioners, Party Opponents and Heritage Bodies (statutory consultees).  The Faculty Rules determine if and which of the statutory consultees should be consulted by parish about their proposals (Historic England, Victorian Society, the SPAB etc).  The Consistory Court is the court of the Bishop of the diocese and administers ecclesiastical law.

However, there are times when full faculty permission is not required.  Quite recently, as a result of a national review of the Faculty Rules, some "simplification" of process took place.

The range of works which can now be carried out without the need for full faculty was extended when the national Lists A and B were introduced, replacing earlier minor works schemes which were inconsistent across the country, and did not exist at all in one Diocese.

The Lists A and B content are determined nationally and specific conditions apply, and the Lists are also currently under review with the aim of determining if the scope of works included can be extended.

List A works do not require permission, List B works require an Archdeacon's Written Notice of Approval.  List B applications need to be properly detailed and specified, DAC advice is required in most cases and this is sought "out of committee" for the Archdeacon; overall the application process is very much shorter and simpler than full faculty.  The works eligible under List A and B are mostly items of routine repair and maintenance and this level of permission is used extensively to enable this type of work to go ahead as expeditiously as possible.

The DAC office and the Diocesan Registry are responsible for the administrative processes relating to faculty and are always willing to offer help and advice to parishes, but must also work within the constraints and demands of the legislation itself

Click here for the Registry legal page.

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