You may have heard someone say when discussing a new heating system, or moving a piece of ecclesiastical furniture in your church, “You’re going to need a faculty for that!”. A faculty is the equivalent of getting planning consent in the Church of England.
Churches are subject to planning law as much as any other building, however in the church of England this planning control has been seeded from the local council to the diocese.
This system also covers the additional demands of listed building or conservation area consent. Because of this, the system is quite involved and no less stringent than conventional planning consent.
However don’t feel too daunted, there is plenty of help available throughout the process.
For most things yes, for example, objects in the church as well as the building fabric and trees and monuments in the churchyard. Each diocese has a ‘De minimis’ (small matters) list of things exempt from faculty, although you still may need approval from the archdeacon for these.
List A just a log, no formal permissions are required, e.g. the gutters were cleared of leaves.
List B matters can be signed off by your archdeacon, often following consultation with the relevant DAC advisor. Not requiring a formal meeting of the whole committee.
For example, a new or replacement sound system requires only list B consent whereas a projection or streaming system requires a full faculty.
If you have a whole audio-visual project in mind, it is worth getting advice on whether to mention the sound system in the full faculty or just apply for list B for that separately.
This can allow you to go ahead with the sound system much quicker, rather than having it held up waiting for the full faculty permissions only required for projection and streaming.
As previously mentioned if you are thinking of a visual system typically comprising a projector and screen plus some flat screens for blind spots, or a camera system for streaming, you will have to go through the full faculty process.
This does involve some work explained in the next section and it helps considerably if your supplier is used to working in churches as they will generally come up with a scheme or options that they know through experience will have a good chance of being approved.
This can save a good deal of time and to and fro with the DAC and lead to a project that keeps everyone on board with the best balance of performance and aesthetics.
Go to https://facultyonline.churchofengland.org/home this is the home page of the Church of England online faculty system.
The first thing to do is create your own online account and link it to your church building. There is an extensive help section with guides on how to create the necessary documentation to support your application.
The most important of these is the User Manual for the system for parishes.
There are also some useful video resources from Lincoln and Carlisle dioceses, search for ‘church faculty system’ on YouTube.
Before you start wading through the online system, a good idea is to prepare a brief summary of what you would like to do and how photos help and send it to the DAC secretary.
Then arrange a follow-up phone call to discuss this information.
This will give you useful pointers as to how to frame your faculty submissions and potential pitfalls that can be avoided at this early stage, saving time later.
DAC secretaries positively encourage this approach.
If you are looking to apply for a faculty, then you will need to complete an amount of formal paperwork and submit plans, specifications and photographs to explain the works proposed.
You will usually need to consult your church architect for advice and have a resolution from the PCC in place.
After following all of the online steps and asking your DAC for final advice your chancellor will look at your application and decide whether to grant a faculty or not.
If your project has attracted opposition, then the chancellor may ask to hold a consistory court hearing before making a decision.
Before starting any work in the church it is always worth asking your DAC as they will be able to advise you on the best course of action going forward.
The speed of your application being processed also depends on what you would like to do, but the DAC will advise you all the way.
There are a very small number of listed churches which are not subject to Faculty Jurisdiction and therefore need to apply for Listed Building Consent via their Local Planning Authority for works to their buildings.
But if you have any concerns about whether you need a faculty or not, contact the DAC for advice.