The faculty jurisdiction is the Church of England's regulation of works to church buildings, their contents and churchyards. It ensures that churches are properly cared for, and that whatever is done to them is properly considered beforehand and carried out in the most appropriate way. The system recognises that churches are living buildings, many of which are of great historic significance but all of which exist for the worship of God and the mission of the Church.
A faculty is a licence to carry out work. Any work carried out in the absence of a faculty is illegal. This page is a general introduction, for more details of the faculty Rules click here.
What it covers
It covers all parish churches and those licensed for Church of England public worship, that is to say all repairs, alterations or extension to a church building or changes to its contents or churchyard.
Although most Church of England churches are 'listed', they are exempt from listed building control, except in certain unusual circumstances (where a church is not primarily in use for worship, or where total demolition is involved). Alteration and change is instead regulated by the faculty jurisdiction.
The exemption does not apply to planning and building controls, Health and Safety or other legislation.
Obtaining a faculty
The first stage in obtaining a faculty consists of seeking advice from the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC). DAC members have a whole range of expertise, covering building conservation, liturgy, archaeology etc. This expertise is freely available, and parishes should contact the DAC at the earliest stage in their thinking to enable the Committee's advice to be included in the project planning. Discussions can also include other bodies such as the Church Buildings Council, Historic England, the National Amenity Societies and the local authority.
Once the DAC has considered the proposal formally, it will issue a notification of advice. This is sent to the parish accompanied by a public notice, which must be displayed for 28 days, giving the parishioners and others the opportunity to make representations.
Next the parish petitions for a faculty, by sending with faculty form provided by the DAC to the Diocesan Registrar together with information about the proposals, such as plans, specifications and the PCC resolution. In cases that are uncontroversial, the faculty will be issued shortly afterwards, perhaps with conditions. If the work is controversial or involves the change of character of a listed church, the Registrar sends notifications to various advisory bodies if they have not already commented.
If there is some dispute, i.e. if there is an objection from a parishioner or an advisory body, the Chancellor, the judge of the diocesan consistory court, must determine the petition. Generally this will be on the basis of the papers, but occasionally a formal court hearing is necessary.
If there is an emergency which requires urgent work, the diocesan registrar should be contacted immediately.
Repairs and routine maintenance
Some repair and maintenance works can be done without a faculty and others can be done without a faculty provided that the Archdeacon confirms in writing that a faculty is not needed.
These works are defined in Schedule 1 of the faculty Rules. Many repairs that do not amount to a change to a listed building are included in these lists. To discuss if a matter is eligible consult your DAC Secretary.