Ecclesiastical court judgments – September (I)

Review of the ecclesiastical court judgments during September 2022 (I)

Ten consistory court judgments were circulated in September: the five featured in this Part I include Reordering, extensions and other building works, and Church Treasures/Sale of Paintings/Loans/Memorials. Part II includes Exhumation and Churchyards and burials, and  also Privy Council Business, and CFCE Determinations, as well as Links to other posts relating to ecclesiastical law.

Reordering, extensions and other building works


Substantial reordering

Re Christ Church Dore [2022] ECC She 2 The Area Dean and Churchwardens of Christ Church Dore sought permission for the extensive works of re-ordering summarized in [2]. The Church was constructed in 1828 and over its 190-year history has undergone works of alteration and reordering on several occasions, most recently in 1996. Its Grade II “is linked to the major contribution to its construction and design by Richard Furness who was a prominent local resident and a fascinating polymath” [6].

The planning for proposed works took place over approximately 20 years during which there has been extensive consultation with Church Buildings Council (the CBC), Historic England, the Georgian Group, the Victorian Society and the Local Planning Authority. The proposals had been amended and reworked in response to these consultations several times [4].

Singleton Ch. indicated that she proposed to limit her consideration so far as possible to the proposals as were in the recent iteration in May 2021; in view of the associated difficulties, she resolved:

“[4] …To manage any similar petition in the future rather differently and to insist upon a schedule of present proposals and present objections rather than ever find myself again spending precious time in the exploration of the multiple iterations of each party’s position over several years”.

The petition includes an estimate of the costs of this project at £705,850 of which £333,000 is already pledged and fundraising plans are in place for the balance [9]. The Chancellor did not consider that “a detailed narrative of the history of the various responses to the various iterations of the Petitioners’ proposals” from the amenity societies would enhance the judgment or assist the reader to understand the issues for determination [11].

“A useful summary of the respective positions was prepared by the then DAC Secretary, Dr. Julie Banham on 17 September 2020, shortly after the rejection of the plans for the exterior as they were then by the Local Planning Authority, Sheffield City Council. The planning authority refused permission for the then proposed installation of solar panels and the creation of a new west end entrance”.

The Petitioners duly reflected on these submissions and prepared different proposals; the plans for the installation of solar panels were withdrawn [12]. The revised plans were resubmitted to the Local Planning Authority, and Planning permission for the external works was  granted on 30 April 2021 [13]. However, the Planning Authority noted that it retained control as to details of the development of the exterior if permitted by the consistory court.

After considering the position of the Amenity Societies, the CBC and Historic England [14], Singleton Ch. reviewed the relevant law as expressed in the “Duffield Question” Re St. Alkmund, Duffield [2013] Fam 158. Whilst there was no question that the changes would constitute a radical change, “the harm resulting from the overarching scheme would be moderate having balanced the likely enhancement of some features against the harm of the proposed changes” [16]. She agreed with the reasoning of the Sheffield City Council planning officer, and was satisfied that the overarching scheme for the creation of a new entrance incorporating the external proposals should be permitted when balanced against the apparent harm of the changes proposed.

The Chancellor determined that the scheme as a whole was appropriate, and granted a faculty for all the works, with the exception of the proposal to remove the choir stalls. With regard to the heating, she commented:

“The Petitioner’s proposals include a new underfloor heating system and their present plan is that there a new more efficient gas boiler be installed. The Faculty Jurisdiction Amendment Rules of 2022 are now in force and although technically they may not apply to this longstanding matter it is appropriate for the Petitioners to review their proposals in this regard and have regard for the Net Zero guidance now in force and consider fully the alternatives to the use of fossil fuel for this church’s heating and lighting I urge them to do so in consultation with the DAC”.

[Re Christ Church Dore [2022] ECC She 2] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Other building works, including re-roofing

Re St. Paul Bedford [2022] ECC StA 3  This petition concerned the reordering plans together with the integrated proposals for the location of two statues within the redeveloped porch area. A central issue was the determination of the appropriate location for these rare and significant stone statues of St Paul and St Peter [4], the significance of which is described in [5] and [6]. Background information on the statues and the development of the petition from the 1980s to the time is described [7] to [12], and in summary, the positions of consultees was:

  • The DAC recommended the proposed works in full [13.1];
  • The CBC, bar some minor suggestions as to details supported the proposals for the redesign of the north porch and the relocation of the statues within the new porch [13.2]’
  • The SPAB registered its strong objection, placing particular emphasis on its view that the statues have additional significance when located in the niches, as a rare example of pre-reformation survival in context. It also disputed the parish’s conclusions as to the rate of environmental deterioration in an external location and challenges other aspects of the submission of the parish [13.3];
  • Although accepting of the north porch proposals in general, HE objects to the proposals relating to the installation of glazed doors and the introduction of the roof-light [13.4[;

The SPAB and HE declined to become party opponents [14].  The Chancellor commented:

“[15]. Although the proposals for the redevelopment of the north porch appear to have arisen out of a need to find a solution for the return, future location and care of the statues, that is not the sole objective of the works relating to the porch…[16]. It therefore seems to me that the petitioned works before me are severable and that the works relating to the redevelopment of the north porch should be considered first…By contrast, the decision-making about the whereabouts of the statues depends in part upon an evaluation of the alternative proposed locations.

For these reasons she considered the proposed works to the north porch first [17] to [43] and then turned to the question of the location of the statues [44] to [79]. She concluded that, for reasons of security, visibility and protection from weathering, the statues would be better placed in the refurbished south porch. The Chancellor granted a faculty for these and all the other proposed works. [Re St. Paul Bedford [2022] ECC StA 3] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Removal and replacement of pews

Re St. John the Evangelist Weymouth [2022] ECC Sal 3 The Vicar and Churchwarden petitioned for a faculty permitting the replacement of their existing upholstered timber framed chairs (installed under faculty as part of a significant reordering in 1985) with new  chrome-framed SB2M chairs, upholstered with a cleanable suede-like ‘Nappa’ fabric, which would be more stackable than the existing chairs. The Diocesan Advisory Committee did not recommend the proposal. Whilst being satisfied that a case had been made for replacing upholstered chairs with new upholstered chairs, the Chancellor considered that chrome-framed chairs would create too stark a contrast in the Grade II* church. She therefore declined to approve the proposed chrome-framed chairs, but approved the alternative wooden framed upholstered chairs which the petitioners had offered as a compromise choice.

The judgment is also notable in two respects: the importance of distinguishing Grade II from Grade II* listed buildings; and the need for “differences of opinion to be held and explained with a courtesy and respect”, here.

[Re St. John the Evangelist Weymouth 2022 ECC Sal 3] [Top of section] [Top of post].

Re St. Peter North Tawton [2022] ECC Exe 3 The church architect and the then vicar for St Peter’s Church, North Tawton applied for a faculty to permit substantial reordering of St Peter’s, a Grade 1 listed building of 13th century origin, but largely comprising 15th and 16th century fabric with some 18th century and late 20th century internal reordering. The opportunity to consider reordering appears to have arisen following receipt of a very substantial legacy left to the church, although wide ranging objections had been submitted by ten parishioners, none of whom became a party opponent [1].

The main items of a programme of reordering were the extension of the meeting area at the west end of the church, which would involve removing two rows of pews, and the extension of the gallery over it. The detailed elements of the reordering scheme are outlined in [3]. With regard to the funding,

“[13]. …[t]he court acts as a signalman on the railway, either giving permission for the application to pass through or not (subject to conditions) … Save in cases where it may be obvious that a parish has no funding or has not contemplated how funds are to be raised, it is not the business of the Consistory Court to become involved in how a parish may raise or spend its finances. These are matters for the PCC.”

The Chancellor was satisfied that a good case had been made for these items and other improvements to the existing facilities and directed a faculty to be issued in the terms of the Petition on condition that each of the provisos in the DAC Notice is to be satisfied [6]. [Re St. Peter North Tawton [2022] ECC Exe 3] [Top of section] [Top of post].


See Re Christ Church Dore, supra.

Church Treasures/Sale of Paintings/Loans/Memorials

Re St. Andrew Shottery [2022] ECC Cov 4 The proposal was to place a memorial plaque next to two similar plaques on the west wall inside the church. The plaque was to be in memory of two people: a former curate who had died whilst serving at the church as a result of a road traffic accident [11], and his son, who had been head chorister at the church and had subsequently joined the army and died on active service in Afghanistan [12]. Citing Re St Margaret, Eartham [1981] 1 WLR 1128, Ct of Arches, the Deputy Chancellor explained that a case of ‘exceptionality’ must be made out in relation to the character or service of the person to be commemorated.

Harris Dep. Ch. determined that the test of exceptionality was satisfied in view of the contributions of the two deceased persons to the life of the church [16]. However, even if someone had been convicted of causing the of the former curate death by dangerous driving (for example), the word “killed” is emotive and likely to cause discomfort to those reading the plaque; an alternative wording could be ‘lost his life’, or ‘died’, or similar [19, 20]. A faculty was granted subject to conditions [21.] [Re St. Andrew Shottery [2022] ECC Cov 4] [Top of section] [Top of post].

See also Re St. Paul Bedford, supra, re location of statues.


Notes on the conventions used for the navigation between cases reviewed in this post are summarized here.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Ecclesiastical court judgments – September (I)" in Law & Religion UK, 1 October 2022,


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