Historic places of worship
1. Ecclesiastical Exemption
Under ecclesiastical exemption, some religious denominations are not required to obtain listed building consent from local planning authorities for works to their listed places of worship. These denominations have shown that their internal systems of scrutiny and control that are at least equivalent to the consent procedures of the local planning authorities.
The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Wales) Order 2018 came into force on 1 January 2019 in Wales. This Order — available on legislation.gov.uk — updated the ecclesiastical exemption regime and clarified aspects of its operation.
From 1 January 2019, the following denominations are exempt in Wales:
- the Baptist Unions of Great Britain and Wales
- the Church in Wales
- the Church of England
- the Methodist Church
- the Roman Catholic Church.
The most important changes made by the 2018 Order in the application of the exemption are that:
- ecclesiastical exemption no longer applies to conservation area consent for the demolition of unlisted buildings in conservation area
- listed and unlisted buildings and structures within the curtilage of a listed ecclesiastical building are now subject to denominational controls.
Managing Change to Listed Places of Worship in Wales: Ecclesiastical Exemption sets out the guiding principles to consider when planning changes to listed places of worship covered by the 2018 Order. It also sets out a code of practice for denominational consent procedures, which explains how those principles should be included in the control and decision-making process.
2. Strategic Action Plan for Historic Places of Worship in Wales
Places of worship occupy a special place in the historic environment of Wales. Many are fine buildings. No less than 3,000 places of worship are listed — including 214 at grade I — which demonstrates their architectural and historic significance. But the quality of their architecture and craftsmanship also reflects their importance in cultural life across Wales over centuries.
However, the sustainability of our historic places of worship across Wales is currently under threat for a number of reasons, including dwindling congregations, a reluctance to consider future options or the capacity to take them forward. At the moment, approximately 10 per cent of listed places of worship are at risk or vulnerable. Without intervention, this figure is likely to rise as more buildings fall out of regular use and the resources available to care for them diminish.
The aim of this strategic action plan, therefore, is to find ways in which these cherished buildings can retain or renew their value at the heart of Welsh communities, with their significance sustained or enhanced. The plan should help support the management of change so that it is responsive to the breadth of value that buildings may have and allows a full range of options to be considered when identifying appropriate arrangements for future use and care. To this end, the focus of the action plan is on people and communities using, enjoying and looking after our historic places of worship.