The Work of the Listed Building Advisory Committee

By Ray Anglesea

The United Reformed Church is one of five Christian denominations in England which are exempt from certain provisions of the planning acts, including the need to apply for listed building consent, for ecclesiastical buildings. Ecclesiastical buildings are defined as church buildings which are currently used for worship or are now vacant and have never had any other use (listed manses are not ecclesiastical buildings and are not covered by the exemption). The exemption system is regulated by the Ecclesiastical Exemption Order 2010.

All five groups have their own arrangements for handling changes to historic buildings which provide the same standards of protection as the secular system operated by local planning authorities. It is widely acknowledged that the facility to control our own listed buildings consent procedure, gained from the government by the churches over many years, is a valuable concession. For instance, each Synod, in coming to a decision on proposed alterations, must take account of the role of the building as a centre for worship and mission. This consideration, not required of local authorities, is an important benefit of the arrangement.

In the United Reformed Church each synod has an advisory body called the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee (LBAC) a sub-committee of the Synod’s Property Committee. The role of the LBAC is to give technical, historic and architectural advice to the Property Committee regarding any proposals to the synod’s historic listed buildings. The determining authority that grants Listed Building Consent is the Synod’s Mission Executive Committee. Secretaries of the URC LBAC synods meet twice a year in Church House, London to consider current practise in the synods and legislative changes affecting historic buildings.

The URC Northern Synod’s LBAC meets as and when proposals come forward. Because the membership of the committee is small in the number and the synod covers a wide geographical area, the general working arrangements of the LBAC falls into two camps.

All major proposals that would alter the integrity and appearance of a listed church building such as structural alterations, removal of pews, extensions and so on are dealt with by the LBAC. Examples where major works have been completed would include St James URC Alnwick, Jesmond URC, Newcastle and Northgate URC, Darlington (see attached pictures)

 

Jesmond URC

Northgate, Darlington

 

St James’ Alnwick

Copies of the listed building application and advertisement forms for major proposals can be obtained from the secretary. A listed building application consists of 4 signed and dated application forms, location plan, drawings, photographs etc; a signed and dated resolution from the church meeting authorising the development. The application will need to be advertised on site and in the local press (a freebie newspaper circulating in the local area will do). Following consultations with statutory bodies such as Historic England, The Victorian Society, the Local Planning Authority and a site inspection a report is prepared for the Property Committee. The Listed Building process generally takes 8 weeks depending on the scale of the development and reasonable and relevant objections can be dealt with. The report once finalised is forwarded to the Synod’s Mission Executive for determination. If approved a listed building certificate with attached conditions will be issued by synod authorising the development. This is a legal document. No fee is required for a listed building application.

All other minor proposals, generally routine enquiries (repair and maintenance) for which listed building consent is not required is dealt with by the secretary of the LBAC, authorised by letter or email, copied to the synod. Examples of minor proposals would include new guttering for the church hall at Great Bavington URC, Morpeth, repairs to the clock staircase and clock face at St Andrew’s Glanton, a new organ console at St.Columba’s North Shields, new roof tiles (like for like), Zion URC, Northallerton.

The LBAC can also give guidance concerning ecclesiastical buildings and manses in Conservation Areas. Any proposal to demolish, alter the appearance and setting of non-listed church buildings, boundary walls, gates etc in conservation areas will require Conservation Area Consent from the local planning authority. Permission to fell, lop or top trees within the curtilage of churches in a conservation area will also require consent from the Local Planning Authority.

Churches seeking advice regarding any changes to their Listed Building should first contact the LBAC secretary before submitting a listed building application (if one is required).
The LBAC secretary will be pleased to help and support. See the Synod directory for contact details.

Ray Anglesea: Secretary URC Northern Synod LBAC

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