Changes to chancellor decision making
The Court of Arches recently considered an appeal in relation to the relocation of a chancel screen in St Alkmund's, Duffield.
The Court revised its guidance on the balancing exercise that diocesan chancellors undertake.
Previously the court had approved the ‘Bishopsgate questions’ which looked at the tests of necessity and whether there would be an adverse effect on the character of the church as one of architectural or historic interest, specifically asking:
- Have the petitioners proved a necessity for some or all of the proposed works, either because they are necessary for the pastoral well-being of [the church] or for some other compelling reason?
- Will some or all of the works adversely affect the character of the church as a building of special architectural and historic interest?
- If the answer to (2) is yes, then is the necessity proved by the petitioners such that in the exercise of the Court’s discretion a faculty should be granted for some or all of the works?
As a result of the Duffield case, the court said that chancellors should be freed from the constraints of the Bishopsgate guidelines, and set out the following new framework:
1. Would the proposals, if implemented, result in harm to the significance of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest?
2. If the answer to question (1) is “no”, the ordinary presumption in faculty proceedings “in favour of things as they stand” is applicable, and can be rebutted more or less readily, depending on the particular nature of the proposals.
3. If the answer to question (1) is “yes”, how serious would the harm be?
4. How clear and convincing is the justification for carrying out the proposals?
5. Bearing in mind that there is a strong presumption against proposals which will adversely affect the special character of a listed building, will any resulting public benefit (including matters such as liturgical freedom, pastoral well-being, opportunities for mission, and putting the church to viable uses that are consistent with its role as a place of worship and mission) outweigh the harm?
In answering question (5), the more serious the harm, the greater will be the level of benefit needed before the proposals should be permitted. This will particularly be the case if the harm is to a building which is listed Grade l or 2*, where serious harm should only exceptionally be allowed.