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Faculty restrictions could be eased to help churches cut carbon

27 June 2023


THE General Synod will be asked to approve the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2023 on the Monday afternoon of its meeting in York. These give effect to recommendations from the net-zero-carbon faculty working group, set up after the Synod set its carbon emissions targets in 2020 (News, 14 February 2020).

Under the new rules, permissions for certain carbon-emissions-related matters will become easier: draught-proofing of doors and windows; pipework insulation; low-energy light fittings; non-fossil-fuel boilers; roof insulation in non-listed buildings; soft furnishings; charging points for electric vehicles; solar panels (on buildings not in conservation areas); and electric pew heaters.

The explanatory notes confirm that it will be harder from now on to get permission for like-for-like replacement of fossil-fuel oil and gas boilers and replacement of oil tanks.

The dilemma now facing churches was illustrated by a case brought to the consistory court by Southwark diocese last year.

The diocese petitioned the court for an interim faculty to replace a gas boiler that had broken down at Holy Saviour’s, Croydon (News, 20 January 2023). The PCC had decided that, however much it aspired to be green, it would not be able to afford the running costs of an electric boiler.

The court granted the interim faculty because the Chancellor considered that the petitioners had considered all the available options; that the DAC had recommended the proposal; and that there was no alternative at reasonable cost, and in an urgent situation, to replacing the existing gas boiler with another gas boiler.

The same requirement for close explanation of due regard for guidance from both the Church Buildings Council and the DAC will also apply to persons proposing the “movement, removal or alteration of a statue, plaque, memorial, monument or other article where it is considered to conflict with the role of a church as a local centre of worship and mission”.

The legislation provides for the amendment rules to come into force on 1 January 2024.

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