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The future of
Churches and Chapels
CBA AND
E CCLE SIASTICAL
EXEMPTION
Jane Grenville delves in to the archives in search of the full story of ecclesiastical exemption.

The invitation to write a piece for Context on ecclesiastical exemption has given me a welcome opportunity to indulge in a favourite pastime: dredging through long closed files of the Council for British Archaeology, reading through testy memos of yesteryear, and finding that CBA policies were not handed down on tablets of stone but are in fact the result of a process of intellectual evolution. In this case, the ideas of a wide cross-section of the membership were canvassed and the opinions of field archaeologists, historic buildings correspondents and regional groups (often dominated by their highly articulate and well-informed amateur membership) were collated by Richard Morris, our Research Officer. Reading through their comments on long train journeys has been a source of considerable entertainment to me, and I suspect irritation to my fellow travellers as I’ve gasped and chortled my way through indignant accounts of some of the ecclesiastical crimes of the century.
The ecclesiastical exemption has its origins in the resistance of the Church of England to early conservation legislation. The view was that since churches are theatres of ritual and worship, and patterns of worship change, users of religious buildings should not be prevented from modifying the surroundings within which worship takes place. This attitude is still prevalent within sections of the Church of England today, where the buzzword for a church is ‘plant’. The Ancient Monuments Consolidation & Amendment Act 1913 was the first piece of conservation legislation to introduce an element of coercive control. Owners of scheduled monuments were to be required to seek permission for alteration or demolition. In return for an assurance of good conduct, the then
Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, persuaded Parliament that the Church’s internal system of developmental control, the Faculty Jurisdiction, was sufficient to allow the exemption of churches and cathedrals from the legislation. The introduction of listing in 1944 and listed building consent in 1968 has not altered the position; churches are susceptible to listing but the operation of listed building consent does not extend to “any ecclesiastical building which is for the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes”.
The present system is operated through three measures: the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure 1964, the Inspection of Churches Measure 1955 and the Pastoral Measure 1983 (modifying that of 1969). Briefly, the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure provides that all works except those of the most minor non-interventionist nature require a licence known as a faculty. This is granted by the diocesan Chancellor (this is a legal post held, normally, by a barrister) on the advice of the Diocescan Advisory Committee which exists to give advice in matters concerning church building. Appointments to the DAC are non-stipendiary and are entirely within the gift of the bishop. The Inspection of Churches Measure provides that every church shall have a quinquennial survey carried out by an approved architect. The Pastoral Measure governs, among other things, the disposal of redundant churches. This, then, is the legal framework of the Church’s internal planning system.
Developments affecting the external appearance of the church are not exempt from the secular planning system and are subject to planning permission granted by the local authority in the normal way. It is important to note also that the ecclesiastical exemption does not apply to the total demolition under faculty, that is, not in the wake of redundancy. For these listed building consent must be sought in the normal way. It is not necessary to apply for listed building
consent for a demolition under a pastoral scheme, but significant concessions have been 'arm-wrestled’ from the Church of England as a result of the deliberations described below.

It is not my purpose to describe the operation of the Faculty Jurisdiction (those of you who have ever tangled with it will understand my reluctance), but rather to consider the public debate about the justification for the ecclesiastical exemption over the last fifteen years and to highlight the contribution of the CBA to that debate. The matter became an issue in 1976 when the government accepted that churches in use could be in receipt of state aid for the fabric. Should state money imply state control? At the time, apparently somewhat to the surprise of the Church of England (see The continuing care of churches and cathedrals the report of the Faculty Jurisdiction Commission, 1984), no demands were made for the removal of the exemption, although demolitions of listed churches, and unlisted churches in conservation areas, were to be subject to non- statutory public inquiries. The Commission to review the Faculty Jurisdiction was set up. Agitation was mounting from interested conservation bodies, not least the national amenity bodies, regarding the damage inflicted by re-ordering schemes, and over cases of total or substantial demolition.
The CBA’s submission to the Comrnission in 1980 was good reading. It considers some of the principal objections to the Faculty Jurisdiction (and answers some of them). It concluded that ecdesiastical exemption is now insupportable as a principle, following the introduction of state aid for (listed) churches in use (not entirely logical; since the availability of state aid is restricted, it seems less than reasonable to propose a change of policy which would affect all churches).
CONTEXT .8

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