1

The future of
Churches and Chapels
CBA AND
ECCLESIASTICAL
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 corres-
pondents and regional groups (often dom-
inated 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 ecclesias-
tical 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 theat-
res 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 Consoli-
dation & 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 altera-
tion or demolition. In return for an
assurance of good conduct, the then
Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall David-
son, persuaded Parliament that the Church’s
internal system of developmental control,
the Faculty Jurisdiction, was sufficient to
allow the exemption of churches and cath-
edrals from the legislation. The introduc-
tion 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 eccle-
siastical 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 car-
ried out by an approved architect. The Pas-
toral 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 ap-
pearance 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 exemp-
tion does not apply to the total demolition
under faculty, that is, not in the wake of
redundancy. For these listed building con-
sent 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 des-
cribed 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 jus-
tification 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 con-
trol? 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 Juris-
diction Commission, 1984), no de-
mands were made for the removal of the
exemption, although demolitions of listed
churches, and unlisted churches in conser-
vation areas, were to be subject to non-
statutory public inquiries. The Commission
to review the Faculty Jurisdiction was set
up. Agitation was mounting from interes-
ted 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 Comrnis-
sion 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 princi-
ple, 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

1