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Religious Denominations Exempted
CofE National aerials Agreement
Other Contacts
Campaign Groups
Consistory Court cases
Church of England
Best Practice Commitment
for the Siting of
Mobile Phone Base Stations


There are 5 denominations of churches that have special powers to determine some planning application on their own property they are:

It is complex issue as not all churches of these denominations come within the powers, and other church property on some specific sites that are not strictly speaking included. In addition cathedrals also have special powers. In as far as phone masts are concerned the most well publicised is the Church of England, who commissioned its own investigation, and has its own set of guidelines, with thousands of installations being hidden within church spires, as well as within ornate shrouds disguised as normal church paraphernalia, a good example of this is the Cross on the Top of Guidford Cathedral.

Section 60(1) and (2) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (the Act) provides that ecclesiastical buildings which are for the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes are not subject to sections 3, 4, 7 to 9, 47, 54 and 59 of the Act.These relate to listed building control, including building preservation notices, restrictions on works of demolition, alteration or extension, compulsory acquisition of buildings in need of repair, urgent preservation works by a local authority, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England and the Secretary of State, and offences in relation to intentional damage. Section 75 of the Act provides that ecclesiastical buildings which are for the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes are not subject to section 74 of the Act which relates to the control of demolition of buildings in a conservation area. These exemptions are commonly collectively referred to as ecclesiastical exemption.

Section 8 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 15 (PPG15) Planning and the Historic Environment, which sets out the provisions relating to Ecclesiastical buildings in use for Ecclesiastical purposes and listed building and conservation area control, which in most cases means they are excempt. Whilst there is provision for consultation with the congregation, there is no specific process for consultation with the public, albeit that there should be a notice placed in the local papers, and the local planning authority should be given 28 days to comment. There are a number of specific rules that relate to control of development on Church of England property known as Measures, these and other provisions are listed below.

The Church of England processes must be applied even if the development also requires an application to the local planning authority. So this information is important for all applications to site masts on Church of England property. There is less known about the processes of other denominations, such as the Catholic Church.

The decision by a parish to agree to a phone company's request to site a mast on their church is taken by the Vicar and the local Parochial Church Council (PCC). They are independent of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but do have central guidelines as suggestions. But ultimately they are the decision making body.

As a consequence of Section 1 of the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991 "Any person or body carrying out functions of care and conservation under this Measure or under any other enactment or rule of law relating to churches shall have due regard to the role of a church as a local centre of worship and mission." That is quite important in how residents word their representations to the various church bodies.

Chancellor Cage QC (equivelant to a a judge) said in relation to an application to site a telecommunication mast in a church spire - All Saints, Harborough Magna [1992] 4 All ER 948 "...... in general it is my view that a faculty for use if a church for secular purposes only should be granted only in rare and

8.5 In considering proposals for such works, any effects on the archaeological importance of the church or archaeological remains existing within it or its curtilage should be taken into account along with other relevant factors. Where works of repair or alteration are to be carried out which would affect the fabric of listed churches or churches in conservation areas, denominations should attach any necessary conditions for proper recording in accordance with the principles set out in paragraphs 3.22-3.24 and, in respect of archaeological remains, in paragraph 2.15.

Future scope of the exemption

8.6 For those denominations and faiths which retain the exemption, its scope is reduced by the Order to the following:

('Church building' is defined as a building whose primary use is as a place of worship.)

8.7 The Order provides continued exemption on this reduced basis (to the extent specified in it) for the Church of England and also for the Church in Wales, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Union of Wales and the United Reformed Church. Ecclesiastical buildings of these denominations are covered by acceptable internal systems of control broadly conforming to the principles in the Government's code of practice. It is intended to monitor these arrangements and review them after two years. (Further Orders can be made if any other denominations or faiths are subsequently accepted as qualifying.)

8.8 Details of these denominations' arrangements will be published in a separate leaflet circulated to all local authorities. This will include the special arrangements made for Church of England cathedrals where all buildings, objects or structures within an area designated by the Secretary of State for National Heritage, after consulting the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, and places of worship and unlisted tombstones and other monuments elsewhere within the cathedral precinct, are exempt. A list of addresses for the denominations concerned, and related bodies, is included in Annex A.

8.9 The Order also provides continued exemption for ecclesiastical buildings of these denominations in various categories where insufficient information is currently available (eg. buildings of Church of England 'peculiars', viz those outside the faculty jurisdiction system; Church of England and Roman Catholic religious communities; and school and other institutional chapels). The intention is that by the end of a limited period all buildings within these categories will either become subject to the normal local authority controls or be included within the scope of an exempted denomination's internal system of control. The bodies concerned have been notified of the order and invited to consider what future arrangements would be appropriate for them.

Exercise of controls over non-exempt church buildings

8.10 For denominations, faiths and independent congregations not listed in the Order, their places of worship will be fully subject to listed building and conservation area control from 1 October 1994. For non-exempt denominations works begun or contracted for before 1 October 1994 are exempt. Conservation area control will extend to memorials, monuments and tombstones of whatever size erected prior to 1925, in order to bring authorities' controls into alignment with those which will be operated by the denominations listed in the Order; this will be done by a direction made under section 75(2) by the Secretary of State.

8.11 Much of the architectural character and historic interest of places of worship lies in the arrangement and furnishing of their interiors. The great majority of furnishings are likely to be fixed and so form part of the listed building (paragraphs 3.30-3.32), and their architectural coherence and quality will need to be taken into account when considering any proposals for re-ordering. It is probable that some changes have taken place in the past, and before considering further alterations the chronology and completeness of the existing arrangements should be carefully assessed. It is particularly important to identify, and where possible retain, the spatial arrangements and fixtures that belong to the principal period of building. When considering proposals for creating cleared areas for multi-purpose use, the possibility of making fixed seating capable of being dismantled or moved should be investigated. Proper recording in accordance with the principles set out in paragraphs 3.22-3.24 and, in respect of archaeological remains, paragraph 2.15, should always be considered. Where extensive re-ordering takes place, some examples of the replaced furnishings should be retained wherever possible and, where appropriate, materials such as panelling should be re-used within the building or offered for re-use in a similar context, rather than destroyed.

8.12 In considering applications for consent relating to buildings used for worship authorities are advised that, in addition to the general considerations set out in section 3, the following matters (mainly relating to interiors) should be given due weight as material considerations, viz whether the changes proposed:

8.13 English Heritage has published guidance entitled New Works to Historic Churches which local planning authorities may find useful in respect of buildings of all denominations. The Church of England has published a Code of Practice on the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure which gives detailed guidance on many of the procedures to be followed and recommended practice under its own system of control (other than for cathedrals).

8.14 The Secretary of State will continue to have the power to bring within normal listed building or conservation area controls by a further Order any individual ecclesiastical building where it seems likely that potentially damaging works will be carried out without the necessary authorisation having been obtained under an exempt denomination's procedures, and without legal sanctions being available to the denomination internally.

Buildings no longer in ecclesiastical use

8.15 In the case of the Church of England total or partial demolitions of a redundant building in pursuance of a pastoral or redundancy scheme under the Pastoral Measure 1983 are exempt from listed building control by virtue of section 60(7) of the Act, and from conservation area control by a direction under section 75(2). The Church Commissioners have, however, agreed to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he wishes to hold a non-statutory public local inquiry into any such proposal for total or partial demolition (which would otherwise fall within the scope of those controls) where English Heritage, the Advisory Board for Redundant Churches, the local planning authority or a national amenity society have lodged reasoned objections. The Church Commissioners have also undertaken to accept a recommendation from the Secretary of State for the Environment following such an inquiry that the church is of sufficient importance to be vested in the Churches Conservation Trust (formerly the Redundant Churches Fund) or, in cases where the recommendation was not that the building should go to the Trust, to make further efforts to find an alternative use and to engage in further consultation with the Secretary of State for the Environment before using the Pastoral Measure powers to demolish. In considering what recommendation he will make, following a non-statutory inquiry, the Secretary of State for the Environment will take into account the financial implications of retaining a church building as well as the architectural and historic interest of the church and other planning and social factors, and will consult the Secretary of State for National Heritage.

8.16 Total demolition by faculty is not exempt but would require listed building and conservation area consent in the normal way, as would total demolition by exempt denominations other than the Church of England. This is because the exemption only applies to a building in ecclesiastical use, and the view of the Courts has been that a building cannot be considered to be in such use if it is being totally demolished. Denominations have been asked to notify the local authority concerned when a church building covered by the exemption ceases to be used primarily for worship. Where total demolition is proposed, denominations may find it useful, before applying to the local planning authority for consent, to see that the proposal has been scrutinised through their normal procedures where these apply.

8.17 Except as mentioned above, Church of England buildings which are no longer in regular ecclesiastical use are fully subject to the normal listed building and conservation area controls once a declaration of redundancy under the Pastoral Measure comes into operation. These controls also cover buildings vested in the Churches Conservation Trust, in most of which church services are still held on an occasional basis. During the waiting period between a declaration of redundancy under the Pastoral Measure and the coming into operation of a redundancy scheme authorities are advised to discuss the application of the controls with the diocesan or parish bodies concerned where the authority is considering taking action under the urgent works provisions of section 54 of the Act or where the diocesan board of finance considers it necessary to remove fixtures for safe keeping under section 49(2) of the Pastoral Measure.

8.18 Many churches, of all denominations, when no longer required for worship may nevertheless have a continuing and valuable contribution to make to the community in terms of architecture, art, social and local or national history. They often occupy central and convenient positions in villages and towns and can, therefore, offer suitable venues for a variety of social and community purposes, such as meetings, concerts, exhibitions, indoor sports and evening classes. Even where the building itself is not worthy of individual listing as of architectural or historic interest, it may nevertheless be a familiar and important feature of an urban or rural landscape - while a surrounding churchyard may possess considerable ecological interest. It is important that once a church becomes redundant no unnecessary delay should occur in finding an alternative use for it. Conversion to another use which preserves the most interesting elements, internal and external, is to be preferred to demolition.

If this is not your issue, but you are a member of the church (any church) please consider writing to the controlling body explaining your worries and fears and let them know you do not want mobile phone masts to be sited in places of worship. Let them know that the siting of masts on church schools is totally unacceptable.

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Church of England National Aerial Agreement

The CofE have put in place a national agreement that they are asking local parishes to sign up to for the siting of base station on church property, more info from the NAA WEB site. We would ask that you lobby your local church body not to sign up to this agreement, and to openly oppose masts on church property.

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Religious Denominations Exempted

General Synod of the Church Of England
Church House
Great Smith Street

Methodist Church
Property Division
Central Buildings
Oldham Street
M1 1JQ

United Reformed Church
c/o Towns, Needham and Co, Solicitors
6/8 Albert Road
M19 3PJ

Roman Catholic Church
Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales
Allington House (1st floor)
136/147 Victoria Street

Baptist Union of Great Britain
c/o Baptist Union Corporation Ltd
Baptist House
PO Box 44
129 Broadway
OX11 8RT

Other Relevant Church of England Bodies

Council For The Care Of Churches

83 London Wall

Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England

83 London Wall

Church Commissioners for England

1 Millbank

Advisory Board for Redundant Churches

Fielden House
Little College Street

Churches Conservation Trust

89 Fleet Street

Historic Chapels Trust

29 Thurloe Street

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Media Stories

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Campaign Groups

FABER - Campaign Group

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Other Useful Contacts

The Church of England Newspaper - Tel: 020 7878 1545 Fax: 020 7216 6410

Church Times - Tel: 020 7359 4570 Fax: 020 7226 3073

Christian Times - Tel: 01903 602112 Fax 01903 821081

If you are having a problem with a mast application in a church or an existing mast in a church then contact the Christian Herald as they are always interested in covering this issue

Church of England Measures (Legislation)

Christian Ecology Link

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Other documents

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Consistory Court Cases

The Church of Englands own court is known as the Consistory Court, judgements that are heard by it can be ordered by fax or post from the Middle Temple Library:-

The following is taken from the Ecclesiastical Law Societies WEB site

Middle Temple Library

The index to this extensive collection of reports can be viewed by following the links contained on the following WEB page

The Librarian writes:
?All members of the ELS are welcome to use the collection during normal library opening hours - generally from 9.00 until 20.00 Monday to Thursday and from 9.00 until 18.30 Fridays. We close for the first two weeks of August and open for the remainder of August and September between 9.00 and 17.30.  We would appreciate a ?phone call to let us know when someone is coming (020 7427 4830).

We offer a distance service via fax or post for photocopies of judgments. We will fax a photocopy declaration form, which must be signed and filled in with details of photocopying required.  When that is faxed back to us we can photocopy and fax or post judgments at a cost of:-

There is an additional administration charge of £4.00 and £2.00 for each subsequent item  per transaction plus VAT  An invoice with VAT charged separately will  be sent with the copies.

Users of the library are able to photocopy items themselves  on one of the library's three photocopiers at a cost of 10p per sheet.?

Planning Sanity has a limited number of judgements in our own library of mast related cases, contact us for details.

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© Planning Sanity - June 2004 (can be freely used by local communities within their campaigns. Publication by third parties is permitted providing acknowledgement of Planning Sanity is given)

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