Last edited 28 Aug 2016

Ecclesiastical exemption

Works to places of worship for exempt religious denominations may require planning permission, but under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, they are exempt from listed building and conservation area consent.

Details of the exemption are set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and in the Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (England) Order 2010. Note, this order only applies to England.

The exemption applies to places of worship, their contents and curtilage, but not to residences. More detailed definitions are provided for Church of England Cathedrals.

Exempt works might include, repairs, alterations, extensions or partial demolition.

The exemption applies to recognised religious bodies that can demonstrate to the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) that they have procedures in place that provide controls over works to listed buildings and to unlisted buildings in conservation areas that are equal to normal listed building and conservation area controls. DCMS consult Historic England when considering applications.

Guidance is set out by DCMS in The Operation of the Ecclesiastical Exemption and related planning matters for places of worship in England 2010, which states that:

‘Denominational systems of control need to be open and transparent. The systems should provide similar levels of consultation and engagement with local communities, and with the statutory consultees - planning authorities, Historic England and the national amenity societies - as is required in relation to the secular control system and they must comply with the provisions of the Code of Practice’ (the Code of Practice is Annex A to the guidance).

At present, the exempt denominations in England are:

  • The Baptist Union of Great Britain.
  • The Church of England.
  • The Methodist Church.
  • The Roman Catholic Church.
  • The United Reformed Church.

NB Under Section 61 (8) of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, ecclesiastical buildings cannot be scheduled monuments and so do not require scheduled monument consent.

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