8th March 2016

The Faculty Jurisdiction, A Guide for Ringers

Law

Under English law the Church of England has its own procedure for regulating repairs, alterations and additions to churches, their contents and churchyards. It is referred to as the Faculty Jurisdiction. A faculty is the formal document of diocesan approval to undertake a specified set of works.

Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015

On 1 January 2016 the new simplified Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 came into force for all Church of England dioceses. They apply to all aspects of the church, including bells and bellframes, and are designed to help and speed up many faculty applications. The new rules may be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/1568/contents/made

Some work now won’t need permission at all beyond the PCC and other work will be dealt with by Archdeacons with guidance from the DAC. A set of nationally agreed lists have been published to explain which work now needs which permission – these are called List A and List B and may be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/1568/schedule/1/made

Items on ‘List A’ can be carried out on your church without a Faculty and this replaces all Diocesan De Minimis and Minor Works lists. (In some cases the De Minimis allowance is reduced from previously, so steeplekeepers and others undertaking work to bells are advised to check what now applies.) List A can be found in Schedule 1, Table 1: see Section A3 for bells.

Anything included on ‘List B’ can be carried out once the written permission of the Archdeacon has been obtained. The Archdeacon may set conditions on the way the works are carried out. List B can be found in Schedule 1, Table 2: see Section B2 for bells.

All other works will still require a Faculty. It should be noted that List B items for bells contains a provision to have regard to guidance from the Church Buildings Council. This advice can be found at http://www.churchcare.co.uk/images/Guidance_Notes/Bells.pdf

Participants

The participants in this ecclesiastical procedure are the parish (usually the minister, churchwardens and Parochial Church Council) and the diocese (i.e. the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches, Archdeacon, Registrar and Chancellor). In some circumstances the Council for the Care of Churches, English Heritage, local planning authority and Amenity Societies (i.e. The Victorian Society, The Georgian Group, etc.) may be involved. Church bell ringers and their organisations may be involved in the faculty jurisdiction process only through these participants.

Procedure

A faculty petition will normally arise out of an initial formal resolution reached by the PCC. Before the PCC can begin preparation of the faculty petition it should first obtain advice from the DAC. This, the first step in the faculty procedure, is referred to as Stage One Consultation. After the DAC’s advice has been obtained the PCC prepares a faculty petition and it is submitted to the Registrar. The Registrar passes the faculty petition to the Archdeacon or the Chancellor as appropriate. The Registrar and Chancellor are legal professionals. The Chancellor is a civil judge who grants or disallows the faculty. The Archdeacon may, in defined circumstances, exercise final jurisdiction over certain repairs to the church fabric, or to certain of its fixtures.

Support

In fulfilling its advisory functions to a PCC during Stage One Consultation the DAC may seek technical support in certain specialist fields such as church clocks, church bells and church organs. It therefore has its own consultants who have agreed areas of responsibility and give their time and advice to the DAC impartially and without reward.

Consultation

The Stage One Consultation, initiated by the PCC with the DAC, is included in the overall procedure in order to save time for everybody in the long run. The DAC will, when it is necessary, ask its specialist consultant to make a site visit to meet a principal PCC officer, to inspect on site, and to report back formally to the DAC. The DAC will then respond, usually after the next regular DAC meeting, giving its formal advice to the PCC. Stage One Consultation provides the PCC with benefits in terms of both procedural advice and technical information.

Submission

After Stage One Consultation with the DAC, and having obtained quotations from contractors in response to letters containing the PCC’s statement of requirement, the PCC will be in a good position for preparing the faculty petition. When the DAC has issued its Certificate of Recommendation the petition will be lodged with the Registrar. The Registrar will then pass the petition to the Archdeacon or Chancellor, as appropriate to the case, for their consideration.

Benefits

The Faculty Jurisdiction procedure is designed to make ecclesiastical regulations run smoothly for all participants in the formal process. It provides not only a logical framework within which the PCC can work but also appreciable added-value in terms of the DAC’s timely guidance, expertise and specialist advice.

Notes

This guide is a general summary only. There may be slight local variations in the sequence of events operated by a DAC within a part of the procedure, but only if that part’s specific intention and function are in no way compromised.

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