If you want to make any alterations to your church building, you will need to apply for what is known as a faculty.
The faculty process provides a statutory framework for a church to balance its missional needs with heritage considerations.
It ensures 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.
Those involved in the process include:
- The Chancellor of the Diocese, the Judge of the Diocese, who is the final arbiter for all Faculty petitions.
- The Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), the statutory body responsible for advising the Chancellor of the Diocese about the judgments he makes.
The DAC is here to help you make sure you have the correct paperwork and all the necessary information you need for your alteration proposals.
It is administered by the Consistory Court of the Diocese. The faculty is a licence issued by the Court on behalf of the Bishop, permitting work to be carried out.
A faculty gives permission to carry out development to:
- a building used for public worship or its contents
- the churchyard or other consecrated buildings and land
The Church of England churches enjoy “ecclesiastical exemption” – in other words, the faculty process replaces the need for listed building procedures which apply to secular buildings and, importantly, allows for due regard to be given to the “role of a church as a local centre of worship and mission”. Faculty jurisdiction does not replace the general planning laws. Building Regulations apply and planning permission will be required when alterations affect the exterior of a church, the churchyard or the change of use of part of the church.
Faculty jurisdiction applies to listed and unlisted churches. All repairs and alterations to churches and churchyards, including furnishings, fittings, additions and removals, are subject to the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 (as amended from July 2022).
The decision to grant a faculty is made by the Chancellor of the Diocese having considered the advice given by the DAC. All applications should come to the DAC first except for exhumations or the reservation of grave spaces.
When a faculty is needed
There are a number of more minor works that don’t need to go through this process. These are detailed in the 2022 Schedule 1 Lists A and B:
- List A covers work that will not require permission
- List B details work that may be authorised directly by the Archdeacon
So, the first thing to check is whether what you propose is covered by List A or List B.
A number of items specifically require a faculty even if they are included in List A or List B. Find them below:
- any works which involve alteration to or the extension of a listed building
- any works which are likely to affect the archaeological importance of a building or any archaeological remains within a building or its curtilage;
- any works in respect of all or part of which scheduled monument consent is required;
- any works which involve extension, demolition or partial demolition of a building, or the erection of a new building;
- any matter which gives rise to a question of law or of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial or which would, if undertaken, affect the legal rights of any person;
- the exhumation or other disturbance of human remains;
- the reservation of a grave space;
- the sale or other disposal of any article of architectural, archaeological, artistic or historic interest;
- the sale of any book remaining in or belonging to a library to which the Parochial Libraries Act 1708 applies;
- the introduction of an aumbry or any other receptacle used for the reservation of the sacrament of Holy Communion;
- the introduction of, or the carrying out of any work to, a monument of the kind referred to in section 3 of the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure 1964(b).
I need a faculty. What do I do now?
There are three main steps in the process for applying for faculty:
- You can contact your professional advisors with a request to prepare a specification and early consultation with the DAC may be advisable in some cases.
- You should check what other permissions may be needed for your proposal – eg planning permission may be required if you are making changes to the exterior of the church; further consents may be required if your church is in a Conservation Area.
- Discuss and minute all proposals fully within your PCC meeting. A PCC resolution will be needed, and the date entered on the Petition for Faculty form in due course.
- For larger proposals, it may be wise to request a site visit by the DAC before finalising your application. Consultation may be needed with Historic England, the Church Buildings Council, and national amenity societies.
Applications for faculties or List B approval should be made via the Online Faculty System, which can be found here. List A works can also be recorded on the Online Faculty System.
When the PCC has agreed that a project will proceed, details should be submitted to the DAC via the Online Faculty System.
Before submitting your application, you will need to register, by clicking on the “Register” button at the top right of the home page. The PCC will need to agree who should register and apply. This may be a Churchwarden, or other responsible person, e.g. member of a Fabric Committee, or your professional adviser.
There are helpful User Manuals for each step of the registration and application process, which can be found via the "help" tab on the home page of the Online Faculty System. The DAC Secretary is also happy to help and talk you through the process.
Your application should be supported by the following documents:
- A statement of significance: This is a statement which summarises the historical development of the church and identifies the important features that make a major contribution to the character of the Church, or which may be impacted by the proposed works.
- A statement of needs: This sets out the reasons why the needs of the parish cannot be met without making changes to the church building and the reasons why the changes are regarded as necessary to assist the Church in its worship and mission.
- Details of the proposed works including plans, photographs, specifications, quotations and drawings as appropriate.(For larger proposals we may also request hard copies.)
You can complete the forms for the Statements of Significance and Needs on the Online Faculty System, or upload them as separate documents. Other supporting documents can be uploaded easily to the system.
Once all the relevant information has been entered on the system, press “Submit” to send the details to the DAC Secretary.
Download our list of 2024 meeting dates, with deadlines for the submission of information.
Once the DAC has considered the proposal, it will make a recommendation, which will be confirmed to you in a Notification of Advice, issued electronically via the Online Faculty System.
You then finalise the Petition for Faculty form, display public notices and submit your petition via the Online Faculty System to the Diocesan Registry.
At the end of the 28 day Public Notice period, complete and submit the Certificate of Publication via the Online Faculty System
Once the faculty is granted, the Registrar sends a copy to the parish with instructions about any actions to be taken, including returning the Certificate of Practical Completion of Works (Form 8) when the work is completed.
Other useful documents
For further help and assistance with any part of the faculty process, please don't hesitate to contact the DAC team.