Church of England – Carbon reduction

The 26 Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 26) taking place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021. We have therefore updated our summary of L&RUK posts on:

There is further information in An Index of L&RUK Posts – Reduction of carbon emissions.

Consistory court judgments

Re St. Peter Walsall [2021] ECC Lic 4 A petition was submitted for the removal of pews and the pew platforms from the church, to be replaced with chairs featuring upholstered seat and back pads, and to replace the existing heating with 30 wall-mounted radiators together with underfloor pipes all heated by a gas-fired boiler. Noting that there was “a real need for any church to be adequately heated” [14], the Chancellor had concerns ” that the new system was to be based on a gas-fired boiler and that the papers before me did not address expressly either the February 2020 resolution of General Synod committing the Church of England to moving to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 or the subsequent guidance issued by the Church Buildings Council on ways of moving from fossil-fuel based heating systems” [16]. However, on a site visit, she noted that the Vicar and churchwarden present on that visit were able to give me a detailed albeit oral summary of the investigations which had been undertaken.

In short the matter had been raised with the consultant advising the church on the proposals. Her conclusions had been that the physical circumstances of the church and the surrounding churchyard meant that neither a ground-source nor an air pump heating system would be likely to be suitable in the current state of the technology. However, the heating system was such that it would be compatible with a non-fossil-fuel based heat source in the future [17].

“[19]. In the light of that conclusion it has not been necessary for me to analyse the difference of emphasis between the approach adopted by Petchey Ch in Re St. Mark Mitcham [2020] ECC Swk 5 and Re St. Mary Oxted [2021] ECC Swk 1 and that of Humphries Ch in Re St. Thomas & St. Luke Dudley [2021] ECC Wor 2. In short that is because I am satisfied both that the issue has been  properly considered at the parish level and also that, albeit on limited material, there are proper grounds for concluding that the proposed system is the best option in the current state of the technology if the church is to be adequately heated.

[20]. I do, however, follow Humphries Ch to the extent of imposing conditions similar but not identical to those imposed by her in St Thomas & St Luke, Dudley. It will be a condition of the grant of the faculty in respect of the new heating system that the Petitioners use their best endeavours to ensure both (a) that so far as practicable gas supplied under a green tariff shall be used and (b) that so far as practicable carbon emissions caused by any non-renewable gas used are off-set. The purpose of those conditions is to seek to minimise the adverse effects of the use of a gas-fired boiler.

Re Christ Church Worthing [2021] ECC Chi 8 The Chancellor granted a faculty for reordering works, including inter alia the introduction of a new insulated suspended floor that is level with the retained central aisle; relocation of three large bore cast iron radiators to the new ‘pew line’ by the said pair of columns; and the introduction of wet trench heating within the new floor structure.

Re St. Thomas and St. Luke Dudley [2021] ECC Wor 2 The Chancellor expressed her concerns regarding the proposed new gas-fired heating system,  and  “respectfully disagreed with the views expressed in the earlier judgments”  which “may be read as suggesting that a chancellor should not consider the environmental implications of a proposal, at least where the petitioners have already done so” [39]. However, she granted a faculty subject to a condition that gas supplied under a green tariff should be used where possible.

Re St. Chad Dunholme [2021] ECC Lin 2 The CBC raised the issue of a renewable energy source suggesting an air or ground source heat pump, [36]. The Petitioners acknowledged that this would be a major project and noted that the proposed heating system would be compatible with integration with an air/ground heat source heat pump in the future, [37, 38]. The Chancellor was satisfied that the works were appropriate and granted a faculty subject to conditions.

Re Peel Cathedral [2021] EC Sodor 2 The Vicar General & Chancellor granted a faculty for the proposed reordering proposals, including inter alia a new floor with underfloor heating, although no details were given for its justification.

Re West Malling Abbey [2021] ECC Roc [judgment, 12 April 2021; review here] The judgment is principally concerned with the aesthetics of the globes around the existing lights. However, the Statement of Need includes a reference to “a desire [of the petitioners, Abbess Anne Clarke OSB and Mr Roger Molyneux, authorised to act on behalf of the Community] to reduce the use of energy to illuminate and heat the building”.

Re St. Mary Oxted [2021] ECC Swk 1. [judgment 16 February 2021; reviewed in Call for C of E guidance on achievement of “net zero” GHG emissions]. Involved the replacement of an existing boiler where although there was a technically feasible “green” alternative, the running costs of which were considered to be prohibitively high. Chancellor Philip Petchey expressed reservations about approving a gas-fired boiler, bearing in mind the policy of the Church of England to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, and stated:

“[8]. …decisions about carbon neutrality should be taken at parish level and … it is not for Chancellors to seek to impose solutions through the clumsy mechanism of refusing otherwise acceptable proposals. But it does seem that, absent new technology coming to the rescue, the effect of a whole series of decisions like the one in the present case is likely to lead to the 2030 target being missed. I consider that this should be addressed in the guidance given to parishes by the National Church about the achievement of carbon neutrality and how they should address competing priorities in the formulation of their budgets“.

Call for C of E guidance on achievement of “net zero” GHG emissions, Re St Mary Oxted [2021] ECC Swk 1, (21 February 2021). (v infra)

Re St. John the Evangelist Donisthorpe [2021] ECC Lei 1. [judgment 27 February 2021; review here] The Chancellor granted a faculty for substantial internal reordering including a new heating system based on an oil-fired boiler. The parish had “diligently investigated many alternative systems of heating” and engaged a specialist heating consultant during the process of preparing the Petition. However, “[u]ltimately it is cost that has forced the Petitioners’ hand in relation to the heating system to be used.” This is of particular significance since it is compromises the Church of England’s target of “net zero carbon emissions by 2030”, and issue explored further in “Net zero” in 2030 – a courageous decision?.

Re St. Paul Addlestone [2020] ECC Gui 1, [judgment 2 March 2021; review here]. This was a successful application to install solar panels on the roof of an unlisted Victorian Church, the parish argued that the justification for the application was not only to save money by generating part of their own electricity (saving about 18% on its energy bills, up to ~£1,000 p.a.) but also expressly ‘to champion the environmental benefits of green sustainable power within the local community. (2 March 2020).

Re St. John the Baptist Capel [2020] ECC Gui 2 None of parishioner’s eight grounds of objection  provided a reason for refusing the grant of a faculty for introduction of new lighting scheme into the 13th century Grade II* church. (29 April 2020).

Re St. Thomas Ashton-in-Makerfield [2020] ECC Liv 1 Faculty granted for reordering including replacement heating scheme and underfloor heating. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioners had provided compelling evidence of need to justify the grant of a faculty for the major reordering.

Re St. Helen Worcester [2020] ECC Wor 2  Faculty granted for major reordering of the city centre church, which was in poor repair and little used, with a view to improving it for worship and attracting more community use.

Re St. Luke Southport [2020] ECC Liv 2 Faculty granted for installation of glazed timber screening to the south side transept chapel; disabled access to the chapel; and a new heating system.

Re St. Mark Mitcham [2020] ECC Swk 5  Judgment, 15 November 2020; review here] considered the replacement of an existing gas-fuelled heating system in the light of the Church’s “net zero”  commitment. The court made reference to there earlier judgment Re St. Michael & All Angels Blackheath Park. [This was reviewed in Carbon neutrality and the consistory courts].

The judgment contains some comments by the Chancellor about the need for churches to work towards carbon neutrality in the context of the General Synod motion in February 2020 [7] to [10]. He expressed a hope that those who have to consider these matters in the wider church will find it helpful to have this judgment [11].

Carbon neutrality and the consistory courts, Re St. Mark Mitcham, (24 November 2020). (v supra).

Re St. Michael & All Angels Blackheath Park [2020] ECC Swk 1 The Chancellor granted a faculty to permit the installation of external floodlighting. The judgment contains a discussion of the effect of floodlighting on the carbon footprint of the church.

CFCE Decision, Hereford Cathedral: installation of solar panels on the Old Block of the Cathedral School (November 2018).

Re St. Philip and St. James Whittington [2017] Ecc Wor 1 There was no further consideration of the heating in the judgement, and the decision turned on the impact of the proposed extension on the veteran yew tree, i.e. about 500 to 1200 years old.

Re St. John the Baptist Suckley [2017] ECC Wor 2. “[24]. The heating has been the subject of detailed discussion with the DAC heating advisor, and it appears that all minor details have now been sorted out. And Historic England has apparently raised no objection. The Victorian Society appears not to have expressed a view as to the heating; but it has been consulted. There is no explicit statement as to there having been any public consultation on the heating; however, there has been full public discussion of the new floor, as described in the Statement of Need, and this would have almost inevitably involved mention of the heating.”

Re St. George Millom [2016] ECC Car 2, in Ecclesiastical court judgments – July, 2 August 2016.

Court permits 40 solar panels on “Arts and Crafts” church, Re St Francis Meir Heath [2013] Lichfield Const St, Eyre Ch, 3 August 2013.

CFCE Decision, Gloucester Cathedralsolar panels: To install around 180 solar photo-voltaic panels in a continuous array across the south slope of the nave roof of Gloucester Cathedral. This will generate around 27,000kW p/a, in order to reduce reliance on fossil-fuel created electricity by 20% in line with the Church of England’s Shrinking the Footprint policy. (31 October 2015).

Re St Mary Moseley [2011] Birmingham Const. Ct, Cardinal Ch. Chancellor considers proposal for heating in relation to Bishopsgate questions. (8 March 2011).

Solar panels on listed churches, Re St George, Kemp Town [2012] Chichester Const Ct, Hill Ch. , (21 June 2012).

See also: “Net zero” in 2030 – a courageous decision?, supra, which summarizes recent judgments on “net zero”, (7 April 2021).


Church of England – carbon reduction

Navigating the faculty system – CofE environment programme webinar. The Church’s October Environment Bulletin, with information on the autumn programme of net zero carbon webinars, plus information on several events linked to the COP26 climate talks. (1 October 2021).

“Net zero”, church heating, and the consistory courts – III, (16 September 2021).

“Net zero”, church heating, and the consistory courts – II, (9 June 2021).

“Net zero”, church heating, and the consistory courts – I, (24 May 2021)

“Net zero” in 2030 – a courageous decision?, (7 April 2021).

Call for C of E guidance on achievement of “net zero” GHG emissions, Law and religion round-up – 21st February 2021.

Towards net zero carbon for churches, A brief background to monitoring by the Church of England of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a summary and analysis of the new guidance note, and comments on its implementation. (12 May 2020).

Measuring the Footprint, Delivering the ambition?, The continued debate on the London/Truro Diocesan Synod Motion, 19 February 2019.

Shrinking the vision on emissions? General Synod and the London/Truro Diocesan Synod Motion, 16 July 2018.

Climate change and the CofE, (8 May 2015).


Post last updated :1 November at 14;10

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Church of England – Carbon reduction" in Law & Religion UK, 1 November 2021,


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