It’s often been said in recent days “it can’t be demolished – it’s a ‘Listed Building!'”. While it is indeed a Grade II* listed building, that unfortunately does not preclude it from being demolished. Another frequent “lay protective” claim is that because it is a churchyard, it cannot be built upon – again, unfortunately, not true.
Relating to the Listed Building Aspect:
“There is no statutory obligation upon the owner of a listed building to keep their property in a good state of repair, although it is usually in their interest to do so. However, local authorities can take action to secure the repair of a listed building when concerned about its continued conservation.”
“If you want to alter or extend a listed building in a way that affects its character or appearance as a building of special architectural or historic interest, or even demolish it, you must first apply for listed building consent from your local planning authority.”
Relating to Churches under the control of The Church of England:
Notwithstanding the second reference above which indicates that planning permission must be obtained prior to demolition, the “Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 – 2011 No. 3″ observes:
A Measure passed by the General Synod of the Church of England to consolidate with corrections and minor improvements the Pastoral Measure 1983 and Parts 3, 4, 5 and 6 and section 61 of the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007, and related enactments which are designed to make better provision for the cure of souls. [24th May 2011]
Part 2(3) Functions of mission and pastoral committees
3(e)in the case of listed buildings or buildings in a conservation area, to make, in accordance with section 55, every endeavour to find a suitable alternative use or suitable alternative uses for churches which are proposed to be closed and buildings which have been closed for regular public worship in the diocese under a pastoral church buildings scheme and, in the case of any other such building, to develop proposals for the suitable alternative use or uses of the building or for the demolition of the building and the disposal of its site;
(It should be noted that in all, the document carried 28 references to “demolition”, involving both Listed and non-Listed churches.)
“The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (England) Order 2010” observes:
Section 60(1) and (2) of 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, 59 and 74 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 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 building in a conservation area. These exemptions are commonly collectively referred to as the ecclesiastical exemption. These provisions are subject to section 60(3) of the Act, which provides that the ecclesiastical exemption does not apply to a building which is used or available for use by a minister of religion wholly or mainly as a residence from which to perform the duties of his office.
Attention here would need to be paid to exactly how the phrase “buildings which are for the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes” is applied.
Relating to Building on a Grave:
The “Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884” does indeed state “(3) It shall not be lawful to erect any buildings upon any disused burial ground, except for the purpose of enlarging a church, chapel, meeting house, or other places of worship.” but that has been amended by the “Disused Burial Grounds (Amendment) Act 1981”, which is described as “An Act to amend the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884 to enable building to take place on certain disused burial grounds with appropriate safeguards; and for purposes connected therewith.” and which states:
1: Exclusion of Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884 in certain cases.
(1) Notwithstanding section 3 of the principal Act (which prohibits the erection of buildings on disused burial grounds except in certain cases) but subject to section 2 of this Act a building may be erected on a disused burial ground or part thereof which is or has been owned by or on behalf of a church or other religious body provided that either —
(a) no interments have ever taken place in such land, or:
(b) no personal representative or relative of any deceased person whose remains have been interred in such land during the period of fifty years immediately before the proposal to erect a building thereon has in accordance with subsection (2) of this section duly objected to the proposal or all such objections have been withdrawn.
(2) Notice of any proposal to erect a building on land in which human remains are interred shall be given by or on behalf of the church or other religious body by whom or on whose behalf the land is held by —
(a) advertisement in two successive weeks in one or more newspapers circulating in the area where such land is situated, and
(b) notice displayed on or near such land specifying the time (not being less than six weeks from the date of the first publication of the newspaper advertisement) within which and the manner in which objections thereto can be made.
2: Disposal of human remains.
(1) Where any human remains are interred in such land no building shall be erected upon it otherwise than in accordance with section 3 of the principal Act unless:—
(a) the human remains have been removed and reinterred or cremated in accordance with the provisions of the Schedule to this Act; and
(b) any tombstones, monuments or memorials commemorating the deceased persons have been dealt with in accordance with those provisions and the other requirements of the said Schedule have been complied with in respect thereof.
(2) Where it appears to the Secretary of State that the erection of building on such land or any part of it will not involve the disturbance of human remains, he may on the application by or on behalf of the church or other religious body owning the land or on whose behalf it is held, and (where appropriate) after consultation with the Commission, by order provide for dispensing with the requirements (so far as they concern human remains) of subsection (1) of this section and of the said Schedule, subject to such conditions, restrictions and requirements as he may prescribe.