At the end of February 2019, the former ChurchCare website closed down following the end of its hosting contract; all the ChurchCare content has been rewritten, updated and transferred to a new section of the CofE’s central website. Users of the revised CofE site will be familiar with the format, with its proliferation of photographs, large font and use of “find out more” links. For those wishing to access the Guidance Notes more directly, we have produces the following “quick links”.
This post provides links to the Main Headings (e.g. Accessibility, Alterations and Extensions, &c) which take the reader to the full range of advice on the topic; the Guidance Note links are for those who wish only to access these documents, most of which provide statutory guidance. At the end of this is post is a link to our summary of the Legal Status of the Guidance Notes.
Some aspects of the guidance are “under construction”. The above links represent the situation when this post was first published on 7 March 2019.
On 27 March 2020 the Church of England published Securing and caring for your church buildings during the Covid-19 pandemic: advice for incumbents, churchwardens and PCC members.
We reviewed the legal status of guidance produced by the Church Buildings Council (CBC) in our post Pews vs Chairs: Application of CBC Guidance, in which we considered the extent to which the guidance was binding. In summary we concluded:
- CBC guidance notes are issued under statutory authority; however, they are not documents with statutory authority as they have not been not approved by Parliament (or Synod);
- However, although there is no direct line of authority to Parliament/Synod, under the Dioceses, Mission and Pastoral Measure 2007, rule 9.6 Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 contains a mandatory requirement for a Chancellor to seek the advice of the CBC on the proposals that fall within paragraph (1) and, in other cases, an optional provision under rule 9.7 whereby a chancellor may seek the advice of the CBC where he/she thinks that this would be of assistance.
The important issue in applying the Guidance is therefore to be the nature of the advice that is sought of the CBC by a chancellor in relation to a particular situation, rather than its exact legal status. In Re All Saints West Burnley  ECC Bla 6, Chancellor Bullimore commented:
“Expert evidence [where taken, and subject to the requirements of rule 11.5 FJR 2015]…looks very different from the Guidance, and is plainly focussed on the particular case in a way the Guidance cannot be. The former is attributable to an individual. The latter does not cover alternative views. Further the Guidance can canvass wider ground than an expert report is likely to do“.
More recently, in Re Holy Trinity High Hurstwood  ECC Chi 5, The Worshipful Mark Hill QC observed:
“. …whilst the evidence clearly supports the replacement of the benches with chairs, it does not, in my assessment, justify the introduction of upholstered chairs. The CBC guidance on this is clear and must be given appropriate weight (although I leave open the question of whether it constitutes ‘statutory advice’ within the technical meaning of that term as applied in planning and other cases).”
The dates of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England may be found by scrolling down to the bottom of the page Cathedrals Fabric Commission i.e. past the large blank area. This page also includes links to the applications that the commission examined, and the decisions made by the commission; these are in the form of PDF copies of all the applications/decisions for each meeting, i.e. Forms 8 and 10 respectively.
As we have commented on numerous occasions, document control is not a strong point in much of the Church’s guidance, and the number of undated documents above indicates that the CBC guidance is no different in this respect. Whilst not advocating the a rigorous adoption of the requirements of ISO 9001:2008, undated documents such as these are less than helpful, particularly when they are to be read with statutory legislation which is subject to change.
Although not all of the Legal Opinions on the Church’s web site are dated per se, the web page providing links to these documents now includes a date relating to their production/revision.
Post updated 2 June 2021 with addition of link to Guidance on Heating Principles, and on 31 July 2021 with note on legal status of CBC Guidance.