Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Church salvage and the law

Some aspects of the law on dealing in architectural salvage, antiques and artefacts from churches by Thornton Kay

See the complete article 'Church salvage' and all the reference documents here

Removing antique, reclaimed and salvaged items from churches in England and Wales is governed by the 1990 Planning Act and the Ecclesiastical Exemption order of 1997.

Ecclesiastical exemption for the six named denominations covers works to a listed ecclesiastical building whose primary use is as a place of worship, and which is for the time being in use as such, works to an object or structure within such a building, works to an object or structure which is fixed to the exterior of such a building (unless the object or structure is itself listed), and works to an object or structure within the curtilage of such a building which, although not fixed to that building, forms part of the land (unless the object or structure is itself listed). In the case of the Church of England, although the exemption ceases to apply once a church has been formally declared redundant, it comes into effect again should a scheme for demolition arise under the Pastoral Measure 1983 (as amended).

The exempt denominations are:
the Church of England
the Church in Wales
the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales
the Methodist Church
the United Reformed Church
the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Baptist Union of Wales

There are three types of listed status (in descending order of importance and difficulty to obtain planning permission):
Grade I: buildings of outstanding architectural or historic interest.
Grade II*: particularly significant buildings of more than local interest.
Grade II: buildings of special architectural or historic interest.

Conservation areas protect groups of buildings, for which an individual building may require listed building consent for alterations which affect its character, but not for demolition. Article 4 Directions can be imposed by a local authority to further control works in a Conservation Area but compensation is payable to any owner who is adversely affected. The demolition of all or part of a gate, fence or wall, the removal of a chimney stack, and changes to roof coverings may be affected by Article 4 directions.

Government general policy is to list all buildings erected before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition and most buildings of 1700–1840. More selection is exercised among buildings of the Victorian period and the 20th century. Buildings less than 30 years old are rarely listed, and buildings less than 10 years old never. Although the decision to list may be made on the basis of the architectural or historic interest of one small part of the building, the listing protection applies to the whole building. De-listing is possible but rare in practice.

The total number of churches and chapels in the UK has been estimated at 75,000 of which 45,000 are still used for religious purposes. But this picture is changing. The first mosques in Britain opened at the end of the 19th century and by 1961 there were seven mosques, three Sikh temples and one Hindu temple in England and Wales, compared with nearly 55,000 Christian churches. By 2005 the number of churches had fallen to 47,600. According to the organisation Christian Research, another 4,000 are likely to go in the next 15 years. The Church of England still has 16,000 churches, and 1,700 have been made redundant since 1969. In 2009 Islamic website Salaam records a total of 1,689 mosques.

Covenants attached to redundant Anglican churches make it difficult for them to be used by another faith. The Church of England has opened more than 500 new churches since 1969. Redundant Anglican churches tend to be developed into houses, offices or restaurants. Methodist churches, down from 14,000 in 1932 to 6,000, and closing at the rate of 100 a year, are often sold with no restrictive covenant attached.

Apart from the fabric of the building itself, items covered by a listing are defined in the Act as any object or structure fixed to the building or any object or structure within the curtilage of the building which, although not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before lst July 1948. These might include flagstones, walling stone, doors, gates, railings, gravestones, memorials, windows and stained glass, panelling, pews, radiators, pulpits, altars, fonts, paintings and tapestries, and lighting.

There are two types of items which can be taken from a church - fixtures which are considered to be part of the building, such as pews or windows, and chattels which are not fixed to the building such as candlesticks and vestments. There is a grey area on things like hanging light fittings and paintings, which may sometimes be fixtures and sometimes not.

If the church is still in use or owned by a religious body then its permission must be sought by the person wishing to sell or dispose of the items. This permission is known as a 'faculty' in Church of England and Roman Catholic churches and may be given as part of a scheduled change to the church which might be known as a 'reordering'.

What can be sold and when?

For a person from a church to sell chattels from a working church the following permission is needed:
• A faculty or church authority under a reordering scheme

For a person from a church to sell fixtures from a working church which is not listed and not in a conservation area the following permissions are needed:
• A faculty or church authority under a reordering scheme

For a person from a church to sell fixtures from a working church which is not listed but is in a conservation area the following permissions are needed:
• A faculty or church authority under a reordering scheme
• Listed building consent if an Article 4 direction is in place, unless the removal of the fixture does not affect the buildings historic character or significance (such an item might be, for example, a 1980's display board).

For a person from a church to sell fixtures from a working church which is listed but has ecclesiastical exemption the following permissions are needed:
• A faculty or church authority under a reordering scheme
• Listed building consent for a separately listed building in the churchyard
• Planning permission if there is a change to the exterior of the church but please note that it is also encumbent on the church authorities to have notified the DLTR or its current equivalent (See more here).

For a person from a church to sell fixtures from a working church which is listed but does not have ecclesiastical exemption the following permissions are needed:
• A faculty or church authority under a reordering scheme
• Listed building consent to remove, alter or demolish the item, unless the removal of the fixture does not affect the buildings historic character or significance, for example a ten year old notice board (unless perhaps the notice board itself was made using reclaimed wood from the church pews).
• Planning permission if there is a change to the exterior of the church

For the owner, or authorised agent of the owner, to sell fixtures from a deconsecrated church which is not listed nor in a conservation area the following permissions are needed:
• Planning permission if demolition of the whole is being carried out, unless the structure is dangerous.

For the owner, or authorised agent of the owner, to sell internal fixtures which cannot be seen from public ground outside, from a deconsecrated church which is not listed but is in a conservation area the following permissions are needed:
• Listed building consent if an Article 4 direction is in place
• Listed building consent for any pre-1925 gravestone
• Listed building consent for the demolition of any principal internal element of the structure including any staircase, load-bearing wall, floor structure or roof structure.

For the owner, or authorised agent of the owner, to sell fixtures which can be seen from public ground outside, from a deconsecrated church which is not listed but is in a conservation area the following permissions are needed:
• Listed building consent to remove, alter or demolish any item (unless the item is being replaced without listed building consent - such as roof slates being replaced during a re-roofing job) unless the removal of the fixture does not affect the buildings historic character or significance
• Listed building consent for any pre-1925 gravestone
• Listed building consent if an Article 4 direction is in place
• Planning permission if there is a change to the exterior of the church

For the owner, or authorised agent of the owner, to sell any fixtures, from a deconsecrated church which is listed the following permissions are needed:
• Listed building consent to remove, alter or demolish any item (unless the item is being replaced without listed building consent - such as roof slates being replaced during a re-roofing job) unless the removal of the fixture does not affect the buildings historic character or significance
• Planning permission if there is a change to the exterior of the church

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