Is everything in church under faculty? We don’t quite believe a member who asserts that even our scruffy old hymn-books, long unused, are subject to faculty.
IT MAY be good or bad news, but everything that belongs to the church, old or new, loose or fixed, is covered. No individual can dispose of or change anything without the right permission. After all, that scruffy old book may be a treasure in disguise.
We have just heard of new, simplified rules for faculty, however, that may help you sort this out. There are now two specific lists that have reduced restriction, and a category called “Everything else”.
On the new “A” list are items that can proceed without the faculty process applying. For those in the know, these were the old de minimis and minor-works categories. The umbrella principle is that these are repair and maintenance that do not affect the historic fabric: lavatories, kitchens, office, like-for-like window glass, and wire mesh guards; repairs to heating, gas and electrical fittings, furniture in vestries and offices, and minor repairs to bells and clocks.
Some outdoor works are covered with very specific details of what may or may not be done to trees: dead ones may be removed.
The new “B” list covers works that include the historic fabric repair and maintenance. The church should contact the archdeacon, who will undertake a fast-track informal consultation with the DAC, for these items.
The Quinquennial Inspection Report covers works that look after and don’t alter the historic fabric. On this list, you will find more like-with-like items, including redecoration, beetle and fungus treatment, adapting utilities, repairing roof materials and roof alarms, installing a sound loop, some more bell and clock works, and taking larger items of furniture into or out of the building. And more on what you might be able to do to churchyard trees.
Get some first advice from either your inspecting architect and/or your archdeacon, who even now will be poring over the details.
Larger repair and reordering projects will still need to go through the full faculty process. A rough generalisation would be that if the works change something in the way the church looks or functions, you still need faculty: for example new facilities, a new heating or electrical system, and external works.
There is a great deal more detail on the website www.churchcare.co.uk, along with a sample form for applying to the archdeacon.
On a related subject, there is new procedure, replacing an old informal one, for consulting Historic England (English Heritage renamed). If a church needs advice, Historic England may give up to 15 hours free advice on a number of items; if ongoing advice is needed beyond that — about regular meetings for a building project, for example — there may be a charge.
This will be written or verbal advice for planning permission, listed-building consent, and scheduled monument consent.
There are times, as with the Heritage Lottery Fund for repairs to listed places of worship, when the advice of Historic England is sought before any grant application can proceed. For large schemes, this can be very helpful at an early stage, when a scheme for repair or reordering has to establish architectural routes to solving a problem, or to achieve specific benefits for those who use the building.
Sometimes, this early engagement can result in more understanding of what needs to be done to improve the way the church can be used, and to protect its future.
Send issues and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.