This page will guide parishes through the faculty application process. The advice is in two sections: a practical seven-step summary for parishes followed by wider background information about the faculty system.
Seven-step summary for parishes
Step 1 - Parish checks whether a faculty application will be necessary for the proposed works
Most works to a church building or churchyard require the parish to submit a faculty application, but many do not and details of the latter are set out in the guidance on Minor Works. Special arrangements can also be made to allow parishes to undertake emergency works particularly quickly - these would normally involve pressing health & safety concerns and you should contact the DAC Office or Archdeacons for advice in the first instance.
Step 2 - Parish requests informal advice
This step is optional. You may wish to refer a proposal to the DAC for informal advice to help you develop a final proposal. If so, you should provide clear details of what you are proposing and why you are proposing it. There is no official form for this: a letter or e-mail is all that is required, supplemented by appropriate explanatory plans, photographs or drawings. You should, however, include a clear Statement of Need (see supporting information).
Step 3 - Parish requests formal advice
You are required to submit your proposal under cover of the Faculty application form and questionnaire. Your application must include relevant supporting information. You can send the application to the DAC office either in hard copy or via e-mail, but if you choose the latter you must have the agreement of all the petitioners and this must be verified by original signatures at Step 6 below. The DAC reviews applications at its monthly meeting - see the page on meeting dates which also includes details of submission deadlines.
Step 4 - Parish receives DAC response to their application
The DAC Office aims to provide a written response to each application within 12 working days of the relevant DAC meeting. The DAC may require additional information from the parish or a change in the proposed specification of the work - in this case the parish will receive an explanatory letter or e-mail. If the DAC is able to make a definitive recommendation at the meeting, the DAC Office will send the parish:
- An explanatory letter
- The original application papers stamped and certified as those reviewed by the DAC
- The green DAC Certificate giving the DAC’s recommendation
- A set of public notices for the parish to display
- A "Petition for Faculty" form for the parish to complete and forward to the Diocesan Registrar
Step 5 - Parish displays public notices for 28 days
The parish must display the public notices in order to allow church members and other interested parties the opportunity to consider the proposals and to raise any objections with the Diocesan Registrar. The parish must also display the documents listed on the DAC Certificate.
Step 6 - Parish submits papers to Diocesan Registrar
On completion of Step 5, the parish confirms in writing the display of the Notices to the Diocesan Registrar.
Step 7 - Diocesan Registrar sends faculty form to the parish
Only on receipt of the issued faculty from the Registrar can the parish legally proceed with the works. Receipt may be delayed if there are any significant complaints arising from the public notices - in which case appropriate procedures need to be invoked before the faculty can be formally considered.
The Church of England enjoys "ecclesiastical exemption" from listed building consent and conservation area consent. This is a valuable element of autonomy which allows the Church to maintain and develop its buildings, churchyards and associated land in line with the spiritual needs of the living Church.
However, such autonomy relies on the Church applying its own robust system of control - the "faculty" system - in order to safeguard the many special buildings under its care (the Diocese of Chester has some 200 church buildings listed Grade II and above).
The faculty system operates for the long-term benefit both of the parish and the wider community - including people of other faiths or of no faith. Its purpose is to safeguard national heritage whilst also supporting Church development and growth.
The faculty system
Parishes must not undertake any significant work to their churches or churchyards without first obtaining legal permission - called a "faculty" - from the Diocesan Chancellor. Parishes are therefore required to submit all proposals for significant maintenance or development of their church buildings, churchyards and associated land to the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) for formal review.
The submission must be on the designated "Application for Formal Advice" Form with its associated Questionnaire (available electronically from this website). Each application must be accompanied by all necessary work specifications, plans, photographs and, where appropriate, local planning permissions and comments from amenity societies such as English Heritage, the Victorian Society and the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings.
The DAC guidance on necessary supporting information shows what documentation parishes need to submit with their faculty application. The DAC reviews each submission in detail, seeking clarification from the parish where necessary and offering advice to the parish based on the knowledge and experience of the DAC members.
If there is no further action required from the parish, the DAC will issue a DAC Certificate. This indicates the DAC opinion of the proposals but does not constitute permission for the parish to proceed. At the same time the DAC will make one of three possible recommendations to the Diocesan Chancellor depending on the level of concern the DAC has about the specific proposal. The three options are:
- Recommend - no DAC concern
- Not object - some DAC concern
- Not recommend - significant DAC concern
It is the Chancellor who ultimately decides whether to give formal faculty permission for the parish to proceed with the works, taking into account the DAC’s concerns along with any objections from members of the congregation, wider public or amenity societies.
Minor (or "De Minimis") works
For practical purposes, works of minor repair or maintenance - which constitute no material change to the building or its contents - up to a value of £5000 (excluding VAT and the cost of scaffolding) need not be referred to the DAC but will require the permission of the Archdeacon if they are over £2,000. These are set out in detail on the "Minor Works" page.