Any alteration to a listed church needs approval by the Southern Historic Churches Committee (HCC) before works commence. It is a criminal offence to make unauthorised alterations to listed buildings with the sanction of possible imprisonment. Ecclesiastical exemption is now extended to include other listed buildings or structures in the curtilage of or attached to listed churches, but not presbyteries or residential accommodation in convents and monasteries. Approval is granted through a formal approval notice (Faculty) which sets out the terms and conditions of the consent. Applications are submitted for consideration by the HCC which meets three times a year at Douai Abbey near Reading. Fuller details for applications are given in the Guidance Notes. Developments affecting the exterior of a listed church may require separate planning consent from the Local Authority in addition to approval from the HCC.
At the earliest stage the applicant is advised to contact the HCC Secretary to discuss proposals for new works or repairs. Generally, accredited conservation specialists should be retained for all aspects of the works planned. Small “like for like” repairs that are exactly the same as the existing may not require a Faculty – but the materials used, colour and appearance must be identical to the existing. A Faculty is needed for large repairs. A new application is needed for revisions to an existing approval, or for a re-application after rejection. The HCC Secretary will advise.
Ecclesiastical exemption applies to listed churches and churches classified as "listable" in the Taking Stock Review - see "Churches". Ecclesiastical exemption also covers separately listed buildings or structures attached to or within the curtilage of a listed church. Such buildings or structures comprise campaniles, chest tombs, parish halls or rooms, school rooms, charnel houses, lychgates, shrines, monuments or boundary walls. Presbyteries and residential accommodation in convents and monasteries are specifically excluded. The curtilage of a listed church is the single site in the ownership of a Diocese, Order or Ordinary.
Before submission of an application to the HCC, parishes should have obtained the approval of their Diocesan Art & Architecture or Liturgy Committee as well as appropriate financial approval. Orders and Ordinaries should also have given appropriate approvals. The HCC reserves the right not to consider applications that have not received appropriate Diocesan, Order or Ordinary approvals beforehand.
Applications are now paperless. Contact the Secretary if this creates difficulties. The applicant (parish priest, architect, designer) downloads, completes and signs the Application Form 1 in the Guidance Notes. This is submitted by email to the HCC Secretary with sufficient architect’s drawings to fully illustrate the works planned, along with photographs, specifications and the most recent quinquennial inspection report on the church. A key part of the application is the Statements of Significance, Need and Impact. The Guidance Notes set out in detail the information required for a submission to the HCC. Applications must be received at least six weeks before the meeting, but the earlier the better. The HCC Secretary will register Application Form 1 and its accompanying documents by uploading them on to website under "Current Applications". There is no charge or fee payable with the application.
Some minor alterations to listed churches and most repairs will be determined under the Minor Works provisions of the HCC by its sub-committee (formerly known as "de minimis"). The same level of information is required as for a full application. It is not usual for the applicant to attend the meeting. The Secretary will be able to advise. Determination is usually 28 days after registration and is ratified in the next full HCC meeting.
The statutory consultative bodies (Local Authorities, Historic England and Amenity Societies) are also notified by the HCC Secretary and given a weblink to the application on the HCC website. They are entitled to a 28 day consultation period.
You may make written representations on applications to the HCC Secretary within the twenty eight day consultation period (before 12.00 noon) shown as the expiry date for Form II. All correspondence will be published on the website under the application. Emails must include the correspondent's name and address. Telephone numbers, email addresses and signatures will be redacted where possible. Telephone messages are not regarded as valid representations and will not be published or considered by the Committee.
The HCC Secretary will issue an acknowledgement of the application, and where possible, will arrange a site visit, attended by the applicant, parish and Diocesan representatives, statutory consultative bodies and HCC members before the HCC meeting.
The HCC Secretary will issue a Public Notice to the applicant who must display it on the church door for 28 days. For all external works, and for internal works to grade I or II* churches only, the application must also be advertised once in a local newspaper.
Fot full applications, the applicant and advisers, who are better placed to answer questions, are strongly encouraged to attend the HCC meeting and make a brief presentation explaining the case for the works. Otherwise the HCC Secretary will present the application on the applicant's behalf. The HCC usually determines each constituent element of an application at the meeting, but may defer a decision if it chooses to. There are usually three full HCC meetings a year and the dates are given under Future HCC meetings.
Subsequent to the HCC meeting the Determination Notice is issued to the applicant, consultative bodies and correspondents giving them 28 days to appeal. The Determination Notice will set out which elements of the application are approved, conditional, deferred or refused.
After 28 days, and provided no appeal is made, the Faculty is issued to the applicant for approved or conditional applications. The Faculty is valid for three years from the date of its issue. The works should be completed within that time frame, otherwise a new application is necessary. The Application is moved from "Current Applications" to "Previous Applications".
Details of the appeals process are given in the Guidance Notes. Eligible appellants are the applicant, statutory bodies and those correspondents who had objected by writing to the Secretary before the HCC meeting at which the application was determined.
Where works have commenced without a Faculty, or in breach of the conditions of a Faculty, the Ordinary and trustees will order the works to cease by serving the appropriate Notice on the administrator of the building. The administrator must follow the directions in the Notice and any subsequent directions from the HCC.